ICPC-2 - International Classification for Primary Care

The International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC), developed by the ICPC Working Party, broke new ground in the world of classification when it was published in 1987 by WONCA, the World Organisation of National Colleges, Academies, and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians, now known more briefly as the World Organisation of Family Doctors (Wonca). For the first time health care providers could classify, using a single classification, three important elements of the health care encounter; reasons for encounter (RFE), diagnoses or problems, and process of care. Problem orientation of the medical record and linkage of encounters over time permits classification of the episode from the beginning with an RFE to its conclusion with a more defined problem, diagnosis, or disease.

The new classification departed from the traditional International Classification of Disease (ICD) chapter format in which the axes of its chapters vary, from body systems (Chapters III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XIII and XIV) to aetiology (Chapters I,II,XVII,XIX,XX) and to others (Chapters XV,XVI,XVIII,XXI). This mixture of axes creates confusion, since diagnostic entities can with equal logic be classified in more than one chapter, for example influenza in either the infections chapter or the respiratory chapter, or both. Instead of conforming to this format, the ICPC chapters are all based on body systems, following the principle that localisation has precedence over aetiology. The components that are part of each chapter permit considerable specificity for all three elements of the encounter, yet their symmetrical structure and frequently uniform numbering across all chapters facilitate usage even in manual recording systems. The rational and comprehensive structure of ICPC is a compel-ling reason to consider the classification a model for future international classifications.

Since publication ICPC has gradually received increasing world recognition as an appropriate classification for general/family practice and primary care, and has been used extensively in some parts of the world, notably in Europe and Australia.

While ICPC was originally designed for paper based data collection and analysis, since the advent of practice based electronic medical records its use has rapidly spread to electronic clinical and research systems.

The first version of ICPC published in 1987 is referred to as ICPC-1. The version in the 1993 publication “The International Classification of Primary Care in the European Community: With a Multi-Language Layer” is known as ICPC-E. The 1998 version 2 is referred to as ICPC-2. ICPC-2-E refers to a revised electronic version released in 2000. Subsequent revisions of ICPC-2 are also labelled with a release date. ICPC is used when referring to the generic classification.

For further information about the various aspects of ICPC-2, please select from menu items to the left.

The development of ICPC is managed by the Wonca International Classification Committee (WICC). More information about WICC activities can be found at the PH3C website.