Medical coding specialists are a vital part of the functioning of any medical facility. Medical coders are responsible for reviewing patient medical records and assigning standardized codes to diagnoses and medical procedures performed so the facility can bill insurance companies and other third-party payers (such as Medicare or Medicaid). The alphanumeric codes streamline the billing and insurance reimbursement process and help healthcare providers get paid in a timely manner. They also make a patient’s electronic health record easier to read from provider to provider. In addition, medical codes can be used for overall statistical analysis of public health threats such as contagious diseases and tobacco use.
This career requires a knowledge of biology, anatomy, physiology and medical terminology, in addition to the coding systems. Though not required by law, nearly all employers will also require certification from either AHIMA or AAPC, the two professional organizations that administer exams for certification. The majority of employers will not even look at the resume of an applicant without certification. This is because coding is a lot more than data entry. Coders need to interpret doctor’s notes on a patient’s medical record and determine the correct codes for each procedure as well as medical equipment used during the visit.
Medical coders usually work in a variety of health care settings, such as a doctor’s office, hospital or nursing home. They are also employed by insurance companies or Health Information Management companies. There are opportunities for medical coders to work from home, but these positions usually require several years of experience. Some educational programs, like Career Step have relationships with companies like IOD Incorporated who train recent graduates to work from home right after graduation.