Updated on: March 17, 2016

ICD-10: Documenting Small Talk at the Annual Company Holiday Party

Original story posted on: December 15, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the ICD10monitor e-news on Dec. 18, 2012.

Just as sure as the menorah is on display at the deli and Santa Claus can be seen stuffing himself down that cheesy cardboard chimney at the hardware store, one day soon you will notice when you arrive home that, in your stack of holiday cards, there indeed will be a thick, white, holly-festooned envelope addressed to you and your spouse from the office.


The spouse’s office.

After all, it is that time of year again for the rightfully dreaded annual holiday party thrown by the spouse’s company – and yes, the RSVP politely states, “one plus guest.” And once again, you are the guest, the spouse, the plus-one.

And sure as you were born, you are going.

Never mind that it’s not your company, nor are any of the attending workers your friends, nor is the boss actually from Mars or Venus. You’re going. You’re going to suit up and put on your game face. You’re going to throw your shoulders back, lift your chin up high, march in and take no prisoners from all those pinheads you hear about every night at dinner.

The good news is that the spouse’s holiday party is sure to be better this year than it was last year. For one thing, you shouldn’t be at a loss for words if you find yourself standing alone at the short-lived open bar (as you did last year, when someone whose name was familiar but whose face you couldn’t place was trying to make small talk. “Oh, those accounting people, what a bunch of dweebs,” you remember saying to yourself under your breath.)

This year’s party also will be better because nobody is going to be talking about Google+, as they did last year. And most everyone has gotten over the Old Spice Man commercials as well.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional, you’re expecting that most folks, especially those from your world, will be talking about the legislation – or, as your spouse’s colleagues no doubt call it, “Obamacare.”

While you are certain that your spouse’s co-workers’ knowledge of healthcare is at the same dismal level as their comprehension of the fiscal cliff, you likely are steeped in the specificity of the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, better known as ICD-10. You’ve been reading the ICD10monitor e-news and you’ve been listening to “Talk-Ten-Tuesday” religiously. You’ve attended webcasts and open-door forums hosted by CMS. You even met CMS’s own Denise Buenning (who, at the reception when you were introduced, you mistakenly called Annette. Oops.) You are ICD-10-ready if the opportunity presents itself, because for tonight, it’s personal. 

“Bring it on,” you murmur to yourself as you approach the valet parking section of a local hotel, where a pitiable marquee welcomes company.

You enter.

There is a hearty roar as you walk through the door, followed by high-fives, handshakes and air kisses. Sycophants surround your spouse. And you are, as the old song goes, alone again – naturally.

Having ambled over to the appetizers station, you wait your turn as someone who looks like they’re clearly from IT scoops up a handful of cocktail shrimp. The IT guy leaves, and in his place two animated couples approach, talking about Thanksgiving and holding at mid-chest plates of cheese and crackers. One of the four, donning a colorful yet appallingly tacky reindeer sweater, barely manages with a bandaged finger. You offer to help.

“Oh, thank you,” the guest says as you steady his plate. “Have an accident?” you gamely inquire. “Oh yes,” he says, “we were just talking about Thanksgiving. I cut myself carving, but it’s no big deal, really – just a couple of stitches.”

You pounce.

“I’m in healthcare,” you say.. “And you need to take care of those cuts.”

“Are you a doctor?” asks the guest. “No,” you respond – catching a look of disappointment.

“But I suspect what you had was what we call ‘W26.0XXA, Contact with knife, initial encounter,” you add.

“Oh, my,” the guest replies, possibly impressed but more likely confused.

“Well, actually, to be specific, it was an electric knife.”

“In that case, and to be specific,” you interject, exhibiting no small degree of hubris, “it would be ‘W29.1XXA, Contact with electric knife.’”

“In fact, it could have been worse,” you add with some foreboding, not missing a beat. “You could have (pause for dramatic effect) lost a finger.”

“And what would that be?” the guest challenges.

“That would be ‘S68.618 Complete traumatic transphalangeal amputation of other finger,’” you reply.


“Just what part of healthcare are you in?” the guest asks.

As you’ve been talking, a small group has gathered around you and the guest, having abandoned what long ago converted from an open bar to a cash bar.

“I’m in that part of healthcare that ensures that, when someone such as yourself presents at the doctor’s office with a cut like you had, the injury is documented properly,” you say with equal measures of confidence and smugness. “That’s so it will be billed appropriately to your health insurance company.”

“Is this part of Obamacare?” the guest asks.

There’s an audible gasp, then deafening silence.

 “No,” you say, biting an olive off of a toothpick for dramatic effect. “It’s the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases from the World Health Organization, or WHO.”

“Love The Who!” a happily anonymous and oblivious voice in the crowd interjects. “Who?” someone else asks. “I saw The Who last year,” another chimes in. “Awesome, dude,” interrupts another.

You feel a tug at your sleeve.

“Let’s get out of here,” your spouse whispers. “This is getting out of control.”

“And that is what we call ‘F43.0, Acute stress reaction,’” you reply.

Walking past a tray of cheese and crackers that, like you, now looks a bit disheveled, you imagine what would have occurred if some hapless fool were to consume a few bites the following day.

“A02.0, Salmonella enteritis,” you assure yourself.

Inspired by Annie Boynton, a contributing editor to ICD10monitor and a frequent guest on Talk Ten Tuesdays.

Disclaimer: Every reasonable effort was made to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time it was published. However, due to the nature of industry changes over time we cannot guarantee its validity after the year it was published.
Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of ICD10monitor and is the executive producer and program host of Talk Ten Tuesdays.