Medical coding is the transformation of narrative descriptions of diseases, injuries, and healthcare procedures into numeric or alphanumeric designations (that is, code numbers). The code numbers are detailed in order to accurately describe the diagnoses (that is, what is wrong with the patient) and the procedures performed to test or correct these diagnoses. Because medicine is not always an exact science, codes were developed to identify all reasons for seeking healthcare.

Coding health-related data permits access to health records according to diagnoses and procedures for use in clinical care, research, and education. Common uses of medical codes in healthcare include:

  • Identifying symptoms that must be evaluated and to alert other healthcare professionals to life-threatening allergies
  • Reporting services performed for reimbursement
  • Helping with administrative functions such as staffing, scheduling, and adding or decreasing healthcare services
  • Comparing facilities and planning for new services in underserved areas

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