Diagnostic coding is used in the health care industry to classify and organize groups of diseases, disorders and symptoms. Diagnostic coding is intended to improve both the response time and the accuracy of medical organizations. Diagnostic coding is important in that it improves the services that are available to the average person, and also makes them more manageable from an organizational perspective. Diagnostic coding is an information conduit, facilitating communication between different agencies and health care professionals.
The fees that doctors and hospitals are able to charge their patients and their insurance plans are determined by a set arrangement of diagnostic codes and treatment codes. Most insurance companies would refuse to make a payment that did not align itself with this standard coding. Diagnostic coding establishes a set list of illnesses that can then have a set list of treatments. This allows large organizations to formalize the practices of medicine.
The list of diseases and illnesses is literally countless in that medical science is always discovering new ones. Having a system of classification that can cope with this fact is very important for medicine. Diagnostic coding is important in that it allows for an unlimited amount of new items. It will always be possible to find a new number arrangement by which a new illness or symptom can be classified and then organized for treatment.
Diagnostic coding allows for a greater standardization of medical treatment. It is always possible to debate what would be the proper care of a patient- what tests are necessary, and what treatments should be attempted. Diagnostic coding makes it possible for an organization to establish standard treatments for every diagnosis. Diagnostic coding is able to get very specific, detailing very particular symptoms such as white blood counts and temperature. This standardization often improves outcomes.
Many critics of the use of diagnostic coding have emphasized the extent to which standardization can interfere with a doctor's decision. People who take this view argue that a doctor's immediate judgment, based on particulars of the case, is more trustworthy than an abstractly determined system. There is a tension in medicine between those that would seek greater standardization, in order to create consistency, and those who believe more in the importance of doctor independence.