Medical coding specialists are a vital part of the functioning of any medical facility, including everything from hospitals and out-patient centers to an individual doctor’s practice. 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; with the majority of employers not even willing to look at the resume of an applicant without a 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. Potential coders will not have the proficiency to pass the certification exams without first completing an education program that offers a robust practicum in coding actual medical records.
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. Although the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects faster than average growth for this field in the coming decade, medical coding can still be a difficult field to break into without experience. For students interested in completing their certification studies online, it can be helpful to choose an established educational program like Career Step. This company has been training career professionals for over 20 years and has relationships with nationwide healthcare staffing companies to help graduates find employment right after receiving their certification.