To be able to consistently assess the difficulty and complexity of coding of an episode of care.  Statements such as moderately complex records have been used in training requirement documentation and this work seeks to clarify this requirement and support computer identification of cases which meet this need.  This complexity is a tag on the episode which is used to select cases for practice or assessment.

It is necessary to be able to represent the complexity of a case so that

  • Students have a consistent learning pathway – starting with the simple and moving to the more complex
  • The expectation of coder competence for entry-level coders and more advanced coders is managed appropriately for students, employers, and examiners.
  • Computers may accurately present cases of relevant complexity when establishing a group of cases to be coded for practice or assessment of competence.


Moderately complex medical record may include:

  • single condition reason for admission but with the existence of co-morbidities and/or the need for multiple interventions
  • multiple conditions reason for admission without comorbidities or the need for interventions
  • episodes as defined by national or jurisdictional guidelines.

Source:  22274Vic_Certificate IV 2014

Note:  this is not a definition which the computer can assess – there is a need to establish computer-based rules which support the selection of cases which meet these criteria.

Note:  for future use and use in hospitals where more extensive skills are needed, it is necessary to identify additional more advanced complexity levels.

Note:  additional requirements associated with complexity are indicated in the complexity level table which reflects the difficulty associated with learning and skill representation, such as the application of standards and complex sequencing.


There is a need to be able to select complexity and build towards the moderately complex and beyond.  Therefore, the complexity levels begin with the very simple and move into more complex requirements.

Complexity Levels

Note each level includes codes which meet lower levels of complexity plus the specified requirements for the level defined.

The maximum number of codes is used to indicate complexity but also as it impacts the time it might take the code the case.  For a random selection of cases to be fair a range of size of cases is needed as coding is timed and each code system/country may determine their speed requirement to consider a coder as competent.  For example, in Australia, a coder is required to meet the minimum speed of 6 records an hour (as an average)

Note:  introductory coding courses (getting students started with the basics) are expected to cover content at levels 1, 2  while more advanced coding incorporates levels 3 and 4, and 5.

Level 6 episodes are highly suited to class discussion rather than assessment.


LevelDescriptionObjectiveMinimum / Maximum number of
Diagnosis CodesExternal CausesProceduresAdditional test components (e.g. COF)
1Test of coding conventions onlyCases where the use of the index and tabular list is ALL that is required to obtain the correct code (diagnosis or procedure)

For example:  admission for unspecified asthma (no other information or coding required).

Min 1Max 0Min 0Not included
2Overarching principlesThe correct allocation of the code should require correct use of lead terms and

Ability to correctly interpret standards for

–          principal diagnosis, (including correct coding or not to code symptoms)

–          additional diagnosis and

–          inclusion of procedures including anaesthesia

–          Inclusion of common additional codes such as smoking status

–          Simple (single cancer coding without secondaries)

–          Simple external causes

–          Simple single

Min 1

Max 3

Max 0Min 0

Max 3

Not included
3Include injuries and common day stay administration codesCode complications which may change the code

Codes from chapters 19 and 12, with external causes etc

Use of ‘’other’’ – understanding when this should be used

Code sets such as Dagger/asterisk, cancers

Cancelled procedures

Application of coding standards for these cases

Diabetes without complications

Administrative coding such as admission for chemotherapy.

Max 6Min 0

Max 1

Min 0

Max 6

4Moderately ComplexThe single reason for admission with co-morbidities and /or the need for multiple interventions.

Include conditions which require the use of the first essential modifier when looking up codes in the index.

Diabetes and related conditions

Multiple injuries (single cause)

Complications within the episode of care

Revision procedures

Supplementary conditions

Allied health interventions

Requires medical vocabulary and clinical knowledge and application of clinical knowledge for look up and understanding

Application of coding standards and rules correctly

Sequencing required to avoid duplication of diagnosis codes.

Min 2

Max 10

Min 0

Max 1

Min 0

Max 10

5Highly complexFull range of conditions

Full range of medical and surgical complications

Multiple injuries or accidents (multiple causes)

Intensive care with ventilation

6Requires documentationAbility to document the rationale for coding query and debateUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedIncluded