Bit by a squirrel? There’s now a code for that

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(CNN) — If you get hurt in a close encounter with a sea lion, injured at the library or burned when your water skis catch on fire for the second time, you are now in luck. Before today your doctor had no way to code for these specific injuries (W56.19XA, Y92.241 and V91.07XD, respectively), but now these unusual circumstances — along with over 137,000 new classified ways to get injured, sick or die — will be represented in the way the medical system records what ails you.

How medical billing changes impact you

For one thing, it’s likely made your doctor nervous and it likely should. It’s the biggest change to happen to the medical profession in years and virtually no one outside of the profession has heard about it. This government-mandated change has the potential to make you wait a little longer for a doctor’s appointment or delay the insurance approval for the MRI you need. It could also improve the quality of your medical care.

“When Obamacare launched, it came with all these headlines, but it only impacted a few million people. These are changes that impact every single individual who uses the health care system,” said Dr. Michael Marks. “Some people have compared this change to Y2K, but nothing happened with that; it was all a big build up to nothing. But this is real, and I don’t know if everyone really is ready for it.”

As an orthopedic surgeon, Marks works in a part of the medical profession that will see the most code changes, and he’s been traveling the country trying to help other doctors get ready for the shift in the way they will do business. The last time codes changed, he said, it took so much additional time to record the data it impacted his productivity. Rather than see six patients an hour, even after they got the hang of the new system, he could only see five. Marks has told doctors they may want to put up signs in their offices letting patients know that due to these billing changes things may go a little slower around their offices, at least at first.