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Medical Coding and Billing: Who (or What) is WHO?

As a medical biller/coder, the information you communicate from the provider to the payer is submitted to the information gathering organization known as the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO is the United Nations organization that views disease and injury from a world perspective and uses the data it gathers on world health trends to recommend the direction of (or need for) research based on its findings. WHO is responsible for coordinating leadership and providing direction on global public health issues by setting standards for healthcare documentation and monitoring health trends.

WHO makes identifying, monitoring, and containing infectious disease outbreaks (like the HIV/AIDS outbreak) possible at the international level, which has resulted in millions of saved lives. WHO has also been instrumental in the development and distribution of drugs, vaccines, and other disease-fighting efforts. The United States is one of almost 200 countries that is member to this organization.

When it was founded in 1948, the original purpose of WHO was to identify methods that would provide better health to people worldwide. This goal has led to standards for safe drinking water, better sanitation methods, access to vaccinations, free birth control, and programs to combat hunger. Following are some of WHO’s primary goals today:

  • Facilitating health development in impoverished areas, focusing specifically on chronic and tropical diseases

  • Fostering health security, including preventing disease outbreaks and addressing epidemic threats

  • Improving logistics, such as access to medicine, training medical staff, and helping more people access care

  • Interpreting research for new policy ideas and organizing resources into collaborative efforts

Although WHO does not conduct research itself, it does support and coordinate research efforts throughout the world by arranging conferences that encourage collaboration among researchers worldwide.

Monitoring the health of the entire globe is a big job. That’s why WHO works hard to provide healthcare access to underdeveloped countries. To address this need, WHO announced an agenda that challenged member countries to implement a system for a universal healthcare plan and to identify methods, such as increasing taxes and implementing improved budget guidelines, for raising funds to finance these healthcare plans.

WHO also encourages the improvement of healthcare in the most impoverished countries via providing access to primary care providers (preventative care reduces incidents of disease and allows for the treatment of minor illness before they can progress) and to prenatal care (to promote healthier pregnancies and healthier babies and to reduce maternal mortality). Perhaps one of WHO’s biggest challenges has been the fight against HIV/AIDS.

WHO has made Africa the focus of efforts to address current health issues like these. Africa remains the continent with the highest incidence of diseases in the world. Despite awareness of the spread of HIV and AIDS, it is still the leading cause of death in Africa. As of 2009, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS organization estimated that 22.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were afflicted with HIV.

It’s no wonder that WHO has made this disease, as well as the general health of developing countries, a very high priority.

WHO works very hard to keep the world population healthy. To do that, WHO needs the data you supply to be as specific as possible. As a coder, you are the individual responsible for abstracting the data that will eventually find its way into the WHO database.

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