As part of the health information sector of the medical industry, medical coders apply codes to the computerized records of patients. Each diagnosis, medical procedure or other service rendered by heath care professionals has a specially designed code required by private or public insurance companies for determining payment. Medical coders learn the protocol for assigning thousands of different system codes used by private medical practices or large public hospitals. Medical industries use different types of procedural codes depending on the size of the facility.
Your Education Background
Students desiring a career in medical coding usually acquire at least an associate’s degree from a community college or university. Required classes include anatomy, physiology and medical terminology, along with computer database management. Other necessary courses include pharmacology, healthcare ethics and law along with insurance compliance, abuse and fraud. During their education, students learnCurrent Procedure Technology codes, the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System and ICD-9 codes. Improving employment options or for obtaining supervisory positions requires that students pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Experienced medical coders obtain additional credentials by taking the Certified Coding Specialist certification exam. Coders taking this exam typically have experience working with records from various areas within a hospital including emergency services, general admissions and surgical suites. Physician-based is another type of accreditation that medical coders can pursue if they are seeking employment in clinics, physician’s offices or similar medical facilities.
Becoming a Registered Coding Technician
Medical coders who are ambitious to broaden their responsibilities eventually become registered health information technicians. A registered health information technician, or RHIT, generally acquires a bachelor’s degree and has experience working in a hospital setting. This position offers the opportunity for advancement into managerial levels. RHIT take responsibility for ensuring that computer systems contain accurate and complete medical records. The technicians also code disease processes and medical procedures for payment reimbursement.
Medical Codes that Employers Need You to Know
The American Medical Association developed the Current Procedure Terminology or CPT codes, which consist of five digit numerical codes applied to procedures performed in a physician’s office. The AMA also developed the alpha-numeric codes known as the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System or the HCPCS. Medical coders use this system for medical products, services and supplies provided beyond typical outpatient procedures and not covered by CPT codes. Both coding categories regularly receive updates throughout the year.
During the late 1970s, the World Health Organization, commonly referred to as the WHO, developed a coding system known as ICD-9 codes. Many countries consider the ICD-9 system obsolete and use the updated ICD-10 version. Used internationally, ICD codes serve as the standard for health management systems and the WHO rely on the system for statistics relating to general public diseases and health problems.
Your Responsibilities in Medical Coding
Coders generally hold full time positions and work around 40 hours per week during the day if employed by clinics, nursing homes, physician’s offices or outpatient medical centers. When employed by hospitals or facilities open 24 hours per day, coders may work shifts occurring during the day, afternoon or night. In hospitals or specialty clinics, medical coders might specialize in specific areas that include cardiology, emergency medicine or hematology.
Besides conventional medical facilities, coders might find employment at consulting firms, home healthcare facilities, insurance companies or law firms. Some medical coders acquire advanced degrees, take business courses and establish private businesses from a home office working for a number of companies. Starting salaries for medical coders average around $38,000 annually. However, salary largely depends on location, education and experience of the coder along with required responsibilities.