Diagnosis codes, for billing and coding purposes, are known as ICD-9 codes. That stands for International Classification of Diseases, 9th revision. We've been using these codes for decades now, adding and modifying as needed.

There's a new version that's ready to bust out, the 10th revision. Many other countries have already adopted this classification system, where the numbers are a little different, but the coding is more accurate because, after all, we've learned a lot more over the years.

However, here in the United States, we're not ready for it yet. Why not? Because the government can't figure out how it wants the electronic billing format to look and work. Just so you know, the implementation of this format was supposed to occur in 2003, a byproduct of the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act of 1997. Now, it's been estimated that we won't be ready to implement this standard until 2010 at the earliest.

The United States is supposed to be a leader on things like this in the world. It's embarrassing that we're falling so far behind. What the government should do is hire consulting experts and just let them go at it. I know some people who would have had this thing done already. Most people have no idea what any of this stuff means, even in healthcare circles. I only know that we're falling behind the rest of the world, and that can never be a good thing.