As we become more and more technologically advanced as a society, it makes sense we update our older methods with newer methods.
The ‘Medical Coding’ job is an example of a job that has been created because of our technological advancements, and one we have a sudden need for in the modern world.
The job is not just sitting at a computer typing on a keyboard all day and is quite involved. In this article, we will be highlighting and explaining what a medical coder does, what to expect from the job, and how to become one.
What is the Job of a Medical Coder?
Medical coding is a relatively new type of job that has arisen because of our advancement and growing reliance on technology. It involves the transforming and categorizing of various medical documentation, services, and equipment into the alphanumeric codes used around the world.
These codes are used to identify, categorize, and are used in the billing process to essentially make the whole process of a doctor or hospital visit smoother.
Medical coding is a job that occurs every day whenever someone sees a healthcare worker. When you visit a doctor because you sprained your ankle or twisted your back, the doctor will diagnose you, give you a prescription, and record everything for your medical history, adding to your notes and documenting your visit.
Information is then taken from all that documentation, transformed using the previously mentioned alphanumeric codes, and then used for billing and categorization purposes.
In other words, the medical coding job is all about assigning codes to smooth down the documentation process and ensure the doctor gets paid for his work by the patient or medical aid/insurance. It allows the patient’s documentation to be easily found, read, and processed, and enables the billing process to be fast.
What to Expect from a Medical Coding School
At the core of this line of education is learning about anatomy. To bill a patient or their medical aid/insurance for the healthcare services they received correctly and accurately, you’ll have to determine precisely what was wrong with them, their diagnoses, and their treatment.
You’ll also be learning the terminology and jargon used in the medical field. As the medical coder’s job is to transcribe and abstract information from medical documents and assign them alphanumeric codes, you’ll need to learn the naming conventions used in the field and the abbreviations and shorthand that could be used. Terminology courses are almost as important as anatomy courses in this field.
CPA, or the Current Procedural Terminology, is a book that gets republished each year. This book contains all the terminology for all approved procedures done today in the medical world and is a book you’ll have to study in this line of work. This is because this book contains all the terminology and codes you’ll be using as a medical coder.
Another incredibly important book is the ICD-9-CM Book – or the ‘International Classification of Diseases – 9 – Clinical Modification’. This book is just as vital as the CPA book, as it defines what a diagnosis is and distinguishes between the different types.
Knowing these definitions and the details which distinguish them is part of the job, as you can then identify and assign the appropriate codes.
Where to Find Jobs
As this is a job that is needed in pretty much every hospital, clinic, or similar healthcare facility, looking around local practitioners to see if they are hiring could be an excellent first step.
You’ll have to decide what kind of environment you’d prefer to work in, as there is a significant difference between a hospital which is continuously busy, and a doctor’s office, which is a bit more relaxed, but in no way slow-paced. Owing to the nature of the job, you could even work from home in some instances.
The average annual salary for a medical coder in the US is a comfortable $33,716, a bit on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to jobs in the medical field, but by no means a small salary.
There are three main routes often taken by those entering this field: a certificate program or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The certificate program is the fastest to complete, but incredibly focused and intensive of the various areas in the field. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration or health information management also covers all you need.
You will also need to earn either a CCA or RHIT credential and get one to two years of experience working in the medical field. Finally, with that experience and the credentials you now have, you can move on to either a CCS or CCS-P certification, certifying you as a professional medical coder.
How to Apply
The application process is lengthy but straightforward, as are most procedures in the medical field. You have to be thorough in this field, after all.
To begin with, gather all your documentation together and then attend a course or program that starts you on your journey to attain the qualifications mentioned above. Once you have completed your various programs and achieved your basic credentials, you’ll need to gain experience in the field and achieve your specialty certifications.
At this point, you will have familiarized yourself with the field and be able to apply for a job at any facility that is hiring.
The Medical Coding job works behind the scenes at healthcare facilities to ensure that all documentation runs smoothly and efficiently.
Coders make sure that your documents are in line with proper procedure and everything is billed correctly. It is a long path to get there, but it can be quite a satisfying job to land in the end.