Medical Coding Job Description – What Does a Medical Coder Do?

Describing the job description of a medical coder is somewhat difficult to nail down in a few sentences, as it depends on where and for whom the professional is working. For instance, there are those who specialize in coding a patient’s medical information, medical records and health information strictly for insurance purposes; whereas others specialize in coding diagnostic and procedural information (referred to as health information coders, medical record coders, coder abstractors, or coding specialists).

Regardless of the type of job you obtain – or for whom you work – there are some consistencies in the job description. All medical coders rely on and consult coding classification manuals and use the information contained within them (along with their own personal knowledge of medical procedures) to translate the medical actualities into code. The code that is assigned to each procedure, diagnosis or any other service given from a health care provider to a patient is then input into the patient’s permanent records via computer software.

What Is the Purpose of Medical Codes?

Medical codes help assign patients to one of several hundred diagnosis-related groups (DRG). The DRG each patient is assigned to helps health insurance providers and healthcare providers accurately determine the amount of money the hospital/doctor/facility will be reimbursed. The money will come from the patient’s insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid, which will also determine the amount of money a patient must pay out of pocket. The coding system was implemented to keep costs uniform across the boards as well as to expedite the retrieval of records across long distances. The DRG system is sometimes used in conjunction with other coding systems, such as those geared toward ambulatory settings or long-term care.

What Does This Mean for Medical Coders?

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Medical coders have to possess a complete understanding of each patient’s health record, and the content contained within in it, in order to find information which supports or provides specifications for the proper coding. In order to achieve this understanding, coders are trained in the anatomy and physiology of the human body, as well as the disease process, in order to gain a full grasp of the etiology, pathology, symptoms, signs, diagnostic studies, treatment modalities and prognosis of diseases and procedures to be coded. This job requires a lot more than simply locating diagnostic and procedural phrases inside coding manuals or with encoder software; it requires actual knowledge of disease processes and procedural techniques so that they may dependably apply the correct codes to the correct procedures.

How Does the Facility Affect the Job Description?

Medical coders may work from a variety of locations, including hospitals, outpatient centers, ambulatory centers, surgical centers, private practices, clinics and even from home. They can fill roles from basic transcription all the way up to departmental heads and supervisors. Because of the variety of places they practice, their work type and volume also differs by location. For instance, in large to medium-sized medical facilities, coders might wind up specializing in a particular aspect of health care information or they might supervise health information clerks and transcriptionists. Alternatively, they could also wind up in charge of medical records and health information in an administrative position, effectively managing the entire department. In smaller medical facilities, medical coding specialists are often in charge of the entire department of health information and coding themselves.

A Note About Compensation

Depending on the level of work in your location of employment, job hours and pay will differ. Of course, the more tasks you perform in a particular location, the more valuable you become and the more you will be compensated (through salary, benefits and job stability). To find out more about what a medical coder makes, as well as how things like location, experience, and facility affect earnings, read Medical Coding Salary Information and Statistics.

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