As a new doctor, all the USMLE preparation in the world would never have prepared me for the complicated process of converting medical pathology into the numbers and decimal points of the ICD-9 coding system.
In passing, I’ve seen plenty of solutions ranging from apps to laminated cheat sheets, but I got particularly excited when we were asked to evaluate ICD9 (2012) by CONCEPTNETICS. I figured that the app must be exceptional and unique if its makers requested a review. Sadly, this was not the case.
Prior to trying out the app, my primary reference tool for ICD-9 codes had been Google, which often led me to Wikipedia (which lists ICD-9 in the table on the top right corner) and icd9data.com.
While perhaps not the most graceful solution, it got the job done.
Enter ICD9 (2012), which promises “the most comprehensive” experience and “user-friendly navigation and fast search capabilities ” for the low price of $0.99.
The app features four main categories:
- Diagnosis – allows you to browse the database via primary categories (eg. 001-139 Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, 140-239 Neoplasms, etc.)
- Search – utilizes a search bar to provide a live-updating search of diagnoses
- Bookmarks – allows you to view a quick list of the diagnoses that you’ve highlighted
- More – provides a feedback form, a link to the makers website, and a link to other apps by the developer (there are no other apps, at the moment)
In short, the experience feels like a beta version in that the app is buggy and lacks polish.
Even in casual use, it repeatedly hangs or crashes, despite my using the iPhone 4S. The makers chose to use a non-standard user interface which behaves erratically. Often times, the bottom navigation bar will scroll up or down, and then reappear at the bottom of the screen (see above). Also, both the top title bar and bottom navigation bar will disappear and reappear at odd times, sometimes not even at the same time. Many of these problems would have been solved by simply sticking with the standard iPhone app UI.
Beyond the UI glitches, the app’s first and primary tab functions adequately as a browser of medical diagnoses, which is something that is more suited for an app than a web browser. It’s nice to navigate through the list of ICD9 codes by category, as if it were a table of contents.
However, the reality is that most physicians don’t browse the ICD-9 database, and will instead rely heavily on the search function; and quickly find it lacking. First off, the programmers chose to use live updating search results, meaning that the search results are updated with each individual letter pressed. Unfortunately, this slows the app down, and it occasionally can hang for over 7 seconds or crash when typing too quickly.
Furthermore, the search function is limited because it does not incorporate any intelligence in looking up results. For example, typing in “diabetes” brings up 249.0 Secondary Diabetes before 250.0 Diabetes Mellitus, although Diabetes Mellitus occurs much more frequently. Also, typing “DM2” will not bring up any search results. By incorporating link popularity, Google’s search engine is able to interpret both of these search queries appropriately (by simply adding “icd9” at the end).
- Browsing through ICD-9 database by section on an app is superior to searching the web
- Incredibly buggy, with frequent glitches, hangs, and crashes
- Search function lacks support for abbreviations and filtering by frequency
- There are plenty of free and paid alternatives to this app when it comes to identifying the proper ICD9 codes, and the app is far too glitchy and limited to recommend
- Look elsewhere.