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Medical Coding Career

Career Description

Medical coders specialize in codifying patients’ medical information for reimbursement purposes. Medical coders assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure by using classification systems software. The classification system determines the amount for which healthcare providers will be reimbursed if the patient is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or other insurance programs using the system. Coders may use several coding systems, such as those required for ambulatory settings, physician offices, or long-term care.

Common Work Tasks

  • Help assemble patients’ health information
  • Complete, review, and process medical claims
  • Assign codes to diagnoses and procedures
  • Assist in documenting the frequency of diagnoses and the utilization of particular services and procedures associated with those diagnoses
  • Audit and re-file appeals of denied claims

Other Job Titles

Medical Coders are also known by other titles, including:

  • Coding Specialist
  • Medical Records
  • Medical Biller
  • Certified Professional Coders (CPC’s)

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training

Medical coders generally have an associate degree. Typical coursework includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health data requirements and standards, clinical classification and coding systems, data analysis, healthcare reimbursement methods, database security and management, and quality improvement methods.

Licensure and Certification

The majority of employers prefer to hire credentialed medical coders. Most credentialing programs require regular recertification and continuing education to maintain the credential. Many coding credentials require an amount of time in coding experience in the work setting.

Both the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers coding credentials. The Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC) and Professional Association of Health care Coding Specialists (PAHCS) also offer credentialing in specialty coding.

Experience

Medical coders should possess good oral and written communication skills as they often serve as liaisons between healthcare facilities, insurance companies, and other establishments. Coders that are proficient with computer software and technology will be appealing to employers as healthcare facilities continue to adopt electronic health records. Medical coders should enjoy learning, as continuing education is important in the occupation.

Salary

The median annual salary for medical coders is $30,610. The top 10 percent earn more than $50,060, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $20,440. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of medical coders are:

  • Federal Executive Branch - $42,760
  • General medical and surgical hospitals - $32,600
  • Nursing care facilities - $30,660
  • Outpatient care centers - $29,160
  • Offices of physicians - $26,210

Job Outlook

  • 2008-2018 Employment growth:  20%
  • Number of new jobs created 2008-2018: 35,100
  • Employment 2008 : 172,500
  • Employment 2018:  207,600

*All information from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Academy of Professional Coders.

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