Keep abreast of our marketing and media insights about what’s shaping digital pharma, healthcare communications, marketing tech and the future of brand/consumer dynamics.


How the ICD-10 System Raises the Bar for Pharma Marketing

Evolved disease state classification system enables precision HCP audience targeting


This brief post will focus on how pharma marketers benefit from the ICD-10 code system. When the World Health Organization replaced the longstanding ICD-9 code system with ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision), it signaled significant progress in how healthcare professionals can describe patient conditions in medical billing and record-keeping systems. The coding, similar to what can be found on, allows for 68,000 codes describing diseases and procedures compared to just 13,000 in the ICD-9 system, an expansion said to address goals of enhancing public health data, improving medical record platform interoperability and advancing the implementation of eHealth initiatives. Media platforms also use ICD coding systems to allow brands to precisely target relevant ads and marketing communications to specialized groups of physicians.

ICD-10 code structure

ICD-10 code structure for pharma marketers

Codes with three characters are included in ICD-10-CM as the heading of a category of codes that may be further subdivided by the use of any or all of the 4th, 5th, and 6th characters. Digits 4-6 provide greater detail of etiology, anatomical site, and severity.

According to Mary Ann Liebert, these codes “tell the story of each patient encounter, describe etiologies of the disease process, explain the complications of care, provide a basis for medical necessity, support coverage for payment purposes, identify incidence of disease, and support statistical tracking for healthcare practices, as well as provide disease state information on medical practices across the continuum of care.” The coding system plays an “important role in determining the severity of the patient’s condition….and contributes to research on treatment outcomes.”

Implications for Medical Record-Keeping and Pharma Marketing

  • ICD-10 impacts the way physicians describe diagnoses, allowing HCPs to more precisely code patient conditions based on severity and prognosis.
  • HCP marketers can now select targets with a deeper understanding of the types of patients they treat based on the severity or progression of a diagnosis or disease state, which was not possible for many conditions under ICD-9.
  • More detail also allows for better targeted HCP messaging via EMR and EHR databases, affording pharma marketers more granular targeting within currently available data streams.
  • ICD-10 brings marketers closer to having the depth of data visibility necessary to enable the next generation of AI-driven predictive analytics.

With sufficient data mining and data preparation tools from the likes of Paxata, with strategic application pharma marketers can and should benefit from ICD-10 coding by leveraging every parameter of this iteration of disease classification. Doing it right requires making an investment in professional resources that can do so, similar to ones that people have used alongside a cannabis marketing guide at marijuana seo for that industry, by leveraging predictive analytics and executing highly targeted cross-channel campaigns.

Wanting more digital pharma insight? Access my whitepaper for examples of current best practices, case studies and anecdotes illustrating real-world applications of all 8 principals for digital pharma marketing success:

Request A Roadmap

Learn how effectively your brand is getting found and gaining traction with your audience, and how you measure up against your full-stack audience activation and engagement potential.