Common Code Sets and Job Types for Medical Coders

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that medical coding is a growing profession and will continue to be for the coming years. Medical coding, also referred to as medical classification, is more a category within the healthcare industry than a single occupation. There are generalist openings but there are also specialist groups within medical coding, allowing a person to choose what part of the whole he or she wants to have as a career.

Code Sets for Medical Coding Jobs

Medical coders are part of the operations of a physician’s office or health care facility. They rarely have direct contact with patients and their working hours are a fairly standard forty hours a week. The primary focus of medical coding is the organization of medical records, either for diagnosis, information storage, or billing purposes. The job duties of a medical coder center on various sets of code to be used. The most common are Current Procedural Terminology (CPT), which describes a number of services and communicates uniform information; HCPCS Codes, which identify products, supplies and services not included in the CPT codes; and Medical Diagnosis Codes (ICD-9-CM), which are used to classify diseases and other forms of health distress. There are also a number of specialty code sets, including those used for claims filing and billing. As you can see, the profession is clearly not centered on only one universal code set.

Depending on their training and expertise, medical coders may work in multiple areas or concentrate solely on a particular medical specialty (e.g. cancer, dental), deal with insurance claims, or be concerned with a select kind of patient (e.g. inpatient, emergency room). There are a number of different job titles within the profession, three of which are outlined below.

  1. Medical Coding Specialist: Reviews documentation about a patient’s condition and translates the finding into codes that help generate medical claims for insurance purposes.
  2. Clinical Data Specialist: Uses his or her expertise to keep billing information compliant with Medicare or Medicaid. The AAPC website has a forum for medical coding job postings. A person interested in medical coding should check the forums if for no other reason than to see what kinds of jobs are out there, and how to become qualified for them.
  3. Medical Coding Consultant: Serves as a cost efficient way for physician’s offices to outsource medical coding. A competent person can quickly develop a client base, and are typically able to work out of the house. It’s essential, though, to have certification and experience to be an outside consultant.

Job Outlook at a Glance

What, again, are the future projections for employment? The Bureau of Labor Statistics places medical coding under the generic group of Medical Records and Health Information Technicians. Future estimates indicate a growth of twenty percent in the 2008-2018 time period, with thirty five thousand more positions created by the end of that decade. This projection does not include replacing the medical coders who retire or permanently leave the field, which suggests that even more opportunities will be there for the right person to fill. Those who are more proficient in the code sets will be in greater demand and can expect a higher medical coding salary, so any advanced training opportunities should be sought and carefully considered. Expertise and knowledge will definitely determine the medical coding job an individual holds.

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