Medical coders are tasked with deciphering lab results, medical procedures, and diagnoses, and translating the information into universal medical codes in the billing process. A standardized procedure code helps payers understand the medical treatments and services that patients receive. This ensures that health care providers get reimbursement from insurance companies. The more that health care providers adopt digital patient records and mobile health applications, the greater the demand for certified medical coders.
How To Become a Medical Coder
Medical coders complete a certificate training program or associate degree at technical schools or community colleges. You can earn this postsecondary certificate in under two years. Different employers have different requirements for coders: for example, a medical coding training certificate, a two-year associate degree in medical coding, or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Once you complete medical coding training, you can earn professional certification. This is a good idea if you hope to make yourself more marketable to potential employers and earn a higher salary.
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Training and Education
Medical coding training prepares you to work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, surgery centers, physician offices, and administrative services. Students learn coding and classification systems by studying ICD-CM and ICD-PCS coding. Training programs and degree programs teach students medical terminology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and coding for diagnoses, procedures, and equipment. Upon completion of a program, students are prepared to take exams from the American Health Information Management Association and the American Academy of Professional Coders. You can earn an associate degree in 60 to 65 credit hours compared to certificate programs that require 30 to 35 credit hours. Depending on your career goals, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in this high-demand field and enjoy increased job opportunities.
You can study to become a medical coding specialist at any stage, whether you are a new student starting your career or are seeking professional development. The medical coding specialist program at Northwestern College is a technology-based program that teaches a foundation of medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. The accredited program complies with medical law and ethical standards and meets the core values set by the American Health Information Management Association. Upon the completion of the program, students are prepared to sit for the Certified Coding Specialist Physician-Based (CCS-P) exam. This certification makes graduates highly attractive to potential employers.
Responsibilities of a Medical Coder
Coding specialists are responsible for gathering information from physician notes, test reports, and forms about patient medical history, test results, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations. Coders use standardized procedure codes related to the information when entering it into applications such as electronic patient records and billing software.
Coding specialists are also responsible for medical billing. This means processing billing and insurance claims and working with medical records staff, healthcare providers, and insurance agents to process statements and claims. Medical coders are knowledgeable about claims, patient bills, and codes and help design billing-related forms, take payments, and issue receipts. The median annual salary in 2020 for coding specialists was $44,090. This figure varies depending on the work setting, education level, geographic location, and work experience. With these factors in mind, coding specialists can earn between $28,000 and $73,370 annually.