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Coding causes of death to statistical categories

The International Classification of Diseases

The ICD which is managed by the World Health Organization (WHO), provides a universal approach to mortality (and morbidity) coding that more than 100 countries use. Its full name is the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, and as its name indicates, it has been developed to permit the translation of mortality and morbidity information into a standardised statistical format. 

The ICD is currently in the 5th edition of its 10th revision and this is the version currently recommended for use by countries. Ongoing updates to the ICD involve corrections and quick fixes to identified problems, the insertion of further details, the adding of new terms and the harmonisation of content. Cumulative updates then lead to the issuing of a new edition. In contrast, the complete revision of the ICD is a major process that involves structural changes and the introduction of new chapters – for example, the ongoing revision of ICD-10 to ICD-11.

The purpose of the ICD is to allow the systematic recording, analysis, interpretation and comparison of mortality and morbidity data. The ICD is used to translate written diagnoses of diseases and other health problems into alphanumeric codes in a process known as clinical coding. Once coded, causes of death can be compiled and statistics produced for storage, retrieval and analysis. 

The ICD consists of a statistical classification that groups similar diseases into mutually exclusive categories using an alphanumeric code. Coding involves assessing individual death records to assign each diagnostic term an ICD code and then applying ICD selection and modification rules to derive the UCOD. It is the UCOD, the condition or injury that initiated the sequence of events leading to death, that is of importance for health preventative efforts, and it is critical that it is correctly certified and coded.

To be able to do this correctly, mortality coders have to be well trained in ICD-10 rules and regulations. This section outlines key actions in improving mortality coding and covers:

  • The International Classification of Diseases (ICD)
  • Mortality coding practices.

Read more

World Health Organization (2016). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, vol. 2, 5th edition. Geneva, World Health Organization. 

Mortality coding
Intervention: Mortality coding

Transformation of information on death certificates into alpha-numeric codes, for easier analysis of the patterns of mortality in a population.

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Publication date: November 2016

Resource type: CRVS best-practice and advocacy

Related resources: Course prospectus: Iris automated mortality coding training

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