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Dr. Timothy Laird, President of Medical Staff for Health First's Viera Hospital

Q&A with Dr. Timothy Laird, President of Medical Staff for Health First's Viera Hospital

The disease classification system in the U.S. will soon be changing. In health care, every diagnosis and procedure is assigned a numeric code. On Oct. 1, doctor offices, clinics, labs, pharmacies, insurance agencies and other medical providers will be required to switch to a new system to document every disease from cancer to the common cold.

While many other countries are already using the new system, the U.S. has been slow to adopt it due to the complexity of rolling it out to the largest group of users in the world.

Like health care providers throughout the U.S., Health First has been preparing for this switch for the past several years, upgrading its systems and training providers and associates. To ensure the smoothest transition possible and minimize the impact to patients and members, Health First began using the new codes Sept. 1.

As the October deadline approaches, here is what Brevard patients need to know about this massive system upgrade:

What is ICD-10?

International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) is a new coding system that provides more accurate and detailed information about a patient's condition. For example, in the current classification system (ICD-9), there are about a dozen codes for a broken arm. In ICD-10, providers must select from thousands of possible codes identifying which bone, where on the bone, the type of fracture and various severities of the fracture, etc. ICD-10 has 142,000 codes compared to ICD-9's 18,000.

Why switch now?

The practice of medicine has changed dramatically in the past few decades. The discovery of new diseases and the advances in treatments and technology have prompted the need for a new system to capture this progress. The ICD-10 code set has the ability to adapt and keep pace with the changes in medicine.

What does it mean for patients?

Providers will have to find and input the new, more detailed codes when recording a patient's symptoms and ailments during an office visit. The new guidelines mean physicians may need to spend more time on their computers finding the correct codes.

Patients will notice the longer codes on their medical records and diagnostic and lab orders starting Oct. 1.

Most importantly, lab or X-ray orders written using the old codes will not work after Oct. 1. Patients with orders with the old codes should contact their provider's office to get a new order issued if they will need it after Oct. 1.

What can patients do?

To help maximize their appointment time, Health First recommends patients bring a list of their medications, including dosage, and a list of the questions they have for their provider. This is always a good practice but will be especially helpful in preventing delays during the transition to the new system. Visit to download the checklist and take it with you to your next appointment.

What are the benefits of the new system?

All caregivers documenting in the same format will help ensure accuracy, consistency and quality of care. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), ICD-10 will also assist with research into population health, looking at disease clusters and quality improvement. Patient information will continue to be protected and safeguarded.

About Health First

Founded in 1995, Health First is Brevard County's not-for-profit, community healthcare system. The fully integrated delivery network (IDN) includes health insurance plans, hospitals, a multi-specialty medical group and outpatient and wellness services. As a locally owned, not-for-profit organization, Health First is committed to investing in our community. In 2014, Health First provided more than $119 million in community support. To learn more about Health First and how we're giving back to our community, please visit