What is Medical Coding?

Healthcare is a huge, complicated industry. There are doctors, nurses, directors, hospital administrators, insurance companies, and plenty other specialists in between. In today’s day and age of electronic billing and records, it has become even more important to keep heath care organized, secure, and private and one role that assists in that is that of the medical coder. While medical coding has existed for a long time, medical coders continue to work in the background of the medical industry, establishing order and pulling relevant information from abstract patient charts and sorting it into meaningful, coded documents.

Medical Coding – The Profession

The medical coder primarily works with patient records and charts, including transcriptions of notes from doctors, prescriptions or ordered tests, laboratory results, imaging studies and anything that would be recorded during a hospital or medical visit. They take these notes or tests and assign an appropriate code – both to report that the procedures were performed and to provide medical billing and insurance information. The coding associated with each test, process, lab and every other action and visit comes from one of three universal coding standard sources: CPT Codes, ICD-10 codes, and HCPCS codes. The codes and terminology included in these references make up the coding language that allows for accurate records, billing, and reimbursement.

In addition to assigning codes, medical coders are often required to looks over processed claims and refile in case of a denial or appeal from an insurance company. They also work with healthcare providers in how to comply with specific laws and assure that they are keeping records that will match the appropriate and required coding. Working as a medical coder could mean working in a number of potential positions, including medical auditor and eventually even practice manager. Right now, the median salary for those working in medical coding is $38,040 (BLS.gov) a year and more jobs are being added every year.

Finding Employment as a Medical Coder

Because medical coding is needed in every area of medicine – whether it’s large surgical centers or small private practice offices – there are several places medical coders can find jobs. Those include:

  • Private medical coding organizations
  • Physician offices
  • Private clinics
  • Surgical centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Dental offices
  • Mental health offices
  • Insurance companies
  • Consulting firms
  • Public health organizations
  • Government health departments

Medical coders can become supervisors and directors of their respective departments or private coding organizations. With more education and certifications, medical coders can advance into other health information positions as well. Requirements willy vary by facility, but at least a bachelor’s and generally a master’s is required for more advanced positions.

Get the Training You Need!

To work as a medical coder requires specific training, and it’s important for perspective hires to have a level of comfort and familiarity with anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. A background in biology, business, medicine, or other science is often preferred. It’s also recommended that those wanting to work as medical coders or those looking to move up in their career take some professional certification classes through a medical coding organization or community college. They can also get training and information through workshops, webinars, and conferences, which happen to all be great opportunities for networking and job hunting. Classes and conferences usually cover topics like:

  • Advanced Medical Terminology
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • CPT Coding
  • Fundamentals of Medical Science
  • Reimbursement Issues

These educational opportunities and programs help to train those interested in medical coding and support the knowledge of those already working in that field to help them analyze and evaluate any issues that come their way.

Medical coders will continue to be a necessary and respected part of the healthcare industry. They work hard to keep the business of healthcare working smoothly and keep patient treatments moving forward.