The healthcare industry is arguably the most important feature of any modern civilization. The roles of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and medical technicians are revered throughout the world for good reason. Although these aren’t the only jobs that make the industry what it is today, medical coders and billers are an imperative part of the efficiency of modern healthcare. These roles reflect the dependence on communication which is an innate part of the contemporary societies we live in. Understanding their history can shine light on their relevance, as well as give an insight into how these roles may change in the coming years. Here is a brief history of medical coding and billing, and how we can expect them to change in the not-too-distant future.

The Origin of Medical Coding and Billing

The earliest form of medical coding has been dated back to 17th century England. At that time statistical data from the London Bills of Mortality was organized into a numerical code. These codes were then used to determine the most recurrent causes of death.

The Birth of the ICD

Over time this system developed into the ‘International List of Causes of Death’, which was used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to track mortality rates and international development in healthcare. This list then developed into the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which compiled the universe of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions.

This allowed for:

  • Convenient retrieval, storage, and analysis of health information for evidential decision-making
  • The sharing and comparison of health information between practices, hospitals, regions, countries, and environments
  • The comparison of data in different time periods of the same location

Recent Developments

Since its inception the ICD has been revised numerous times to provide more detailed accounts. In 1948 when the WHO assumed responsibility for the ICD, it was in it’s sixth edition. Since then, it has been revised four times, leading to the modern ICD-10 which had been in use since 1992. May 2019 saw the endorsement of the 11th edition of the ICD (ICD-11), which is planned to come into effect in January 2022.

Current Procedural Terminology

The other side of coding which is just as important in modern medical practices is the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT).

The CPT describes the medical services (including surgical and diagnostic) and is used to communicate uniform information about these services and procedures. This is then communicated among physicians, patients, coders, accreditation organizations, and those paying for administrative, financial, and analytical purposes.

This system is maintained by the American Medical Association (AMA), and is a part of the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS), Level I.

Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, Level II

The final integral part of modern coding is the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, Level II. This defines the medicines, supplies, or other services utilized during a patient’s visit.

This is a crucial aspect of the history of medical coding. The combination of the ICD-10 and the HCPCS, Levels I and II have allowed medical coding and billing to become what it is today.

The Future of Medical Billing and Coding

The recent pandemic has brought to light some changes that needed to be made to the way that many industries work. With the value of remotely-working employees being integral in maintaining safe social distancing procedures.

Within the healthcare industry we’ve seen an influx in the use of telehealth services to allow diagnosis at a distance. We’re also seeing more companies offering professional remote medical coding and billing at a fraction of the cost of an in-house coder or biller.


Medical coding and billing have already seen leaps and bounds in its development over the last few decades. Prior to the accessibility of computers for commercial use, medical coders and billers had to refer to dense code books.

This would cost time and money, and forced medical institutes to update their books regularly to stay “up to code”.

Computers have allowed medical billers and coders to access the necessary information in a fraction of the time. They’ve also allowed people with minimal to no medical education to find employment as coders or billers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Developments in machine learning and aspects of AI are further changing the way that codes are managed and accessed.

The implications of this may scare many medical coders and billers, but it seems that this technology is still far from the level of precision that is required.

To read more about how coders and billers are reacting to AI, read here.

Outsourcing Medical Billing and Coding

The history of medical coding continues today in the iterations of the ICD. If you’re one of many practices that are currently struggling financially to maintain your clinic, then you may consider outsourcing.

Here at the Psych Biller we are able to assist with outsourced medical billing, coding, and other administrative tasks which can cost precious time and money.

If you’re wondering what outsourced medical billing or coding services may look like for your practice, contact us today.