"Struck by Orca": 72 ICD-10 Codes, Illustrated

Lying on blankets at an outdoor concert in Madison, Wis., last July, a group of health IT professionals were on their smartphones, finding and laughing at some of the more unusual and seemingly unnecessary ICD-10 codes.

The idea of making an illustrated children's book using the codes was tossed around that night, says Niko Skievaski, a former Epic employee who currently works with health IT-focused incubator 100state in Madison. But it wasn't until last fall that the idea for a book began to take shape.

"Months later, I was at a bar with some people from the [health IT] community, and we got back on the subject of these ridiculous codes, and a possible book, and some people said, 'Hey, I'd do a piece of art for that,'" he says.

So Mr. Skievaski reached out to the 100 or so people in the incubator and created a website for the fledgling project. When someone placed an order for the then-nonexistent book within 24 hours of the site's launch, "that was all the validation we needed," he says.

Soon, 60 artists had agreed to illustrate their favorite ICD-10 code for the book, resulting in a collection of 72 codes chosen by the artists and accompanied by illustrations in a variety of mediums and styles. Struck by Orca was quickly compiled and was officially released Dec. 15, 2013. The book is now in its fourth printing with about 3,000 copies sold.

Mr. Skievaski credits a significant portion of the sales to the four Epic employees who contributed art to the book. Because of the employees' involvement, the project was discussed at a monthly meeting of Epic's 8,000 employees. "I assumed we'd get a bunch of sales from Epic people after that," he says, "but what happened is those people got on airplanes [and went to Epic implementation sites] and told their customers about it — that's when I knew this was getting big."

As health IT professionals, Mr. Skievaski and the book's contributors are aware of the controversy surrounding the ICD-10 switch and the pressure the looming Oct. 1 deadline is placing on providers. As an incubator, the group is focused on finding ways to improve the U.S. healthcare system through the use of technology.

Finding a way to ease the ICD-10 proved a bit of a stumbling block, as the group struggled to see how the transition would benefit providers. "It was very hard to identify the benefits, except for insurers having better data, but it was easy to identify the ways it seemed ridiculous," says Mr. Skievaski. "Because we couldn't figure out how to help, we decided to bring some humor to the situation.

"This is our way of helping out," he says. 

More Articles on ICD-10:

Study: Half of U.S. Healthcare Providers 25% or Less Done With ICD-10 Implementation
How to Lessen ICD-10's Impact on Coder Productivity
It's Go Time: the Final Preparations for ICD-10


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