WHO latest ICD includes Traditional Chinese Medicine

The 11th revision of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) will include Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the first time. ICD-11 will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption by Member States, and will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

The WHO first announced the news last June, noting “the inclusion for the first time of traditional medicine is a way of recording epidemiological data about disorders described in ancient Chinese medicine, commonly used in China, Japan, Korea, and other parts of the world.”

ICD is a standardized system of alphanumeric codes for diagnoses used in medical billing and coding throughout the world, as well as for epidemiology, research, and cataloguing causes of death, according to the WHO.

Although millions of people use traditional medicine worldwide, it has never been classified in this system. The latest revision incorporates TCM diagnoses components, such as qi deficiency, damp heat, and liver qi stagnation. A full list of diagnoses and codes can be found here.

While this is exciting news for our colleagues practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine, who will now be able to track services rendered using the standard code system, some members of the science and research community have expressed concerns about the changes. The April 2019 issue of Scientific American calls the integration a “bad idea,” and slams the WHO for legitimizing practices that they say have not been thoroughly researched.

However, the WHO says incorporating is not a judgement on the validity of a condition or the efficacy of treatment, but is an important aspect of mapping how humans live and the types of healthcare they receive. 

The non-profit Consciousness and Healing Initiative put out a call on social media to action earlier this afternoon asking health professionals to submit their comments to Scientific American.

We at Integrative Practitioner want to know what you think, too. E-mail your comments to editor Katherine Rushlau at [email protected], or simply comment below.