Despite the differences between the many types of medical coding jobs, there still exists a common thread that runs throughout them all. The same basic tasks, skills, and educational requirements are involved in any kind of setting; from a solo practice, to a large hospital, and even to working from home. Simply put, the main job of a coder involves organizing, coding, and filing patient records for every individual that visits the practice in which he or she works. With their many job titles (e.g. medical coding specialists, health information technicians, health information coders, etc.), this job is an essential part of the health care industry.
The Role of a Medical Coder
Each time a patient visits their health care or medical provider, documentation of that visit must be recorded and filed in order to ensure that a comprehensive patient history is kept. This accomplishes a few goals:
- Patient histories are available instantly, making sure that in emergencies, near or far, any medical provider has access to an individual’s charts, history, allergies, blood types, etc.
- When a doctor sees a patient, whether for the first time or the hundredth time, the doctor has a complete history right in front of them, allowing them to catch any patterns that might otherwise be missed if relying on memory.
- The easy retrieval system allows the practice to run more smoothly, thanks to the proper coding and filing system put in place by a professional medical coder.
This tightly run system is achieved by the filing of medical codes – something that a professional in the field must be trained to handle with the utmost competence. In addition to this, medical coding jobs include some of the following tasks:
- Ensuring that all charts are filled out completely and accurately, medical coders act as a safety valve for patient care.
- Checking documentation for proper signatures from doctors and patients to ensure that filing, prescriptions, follow-up appointments and billing run smoothly.
- Making sure that billing and insurance reimbursement operate as needed.
- Utilizing computer software programs to analyze data for filing and retrieval of information.
In short, the billing and coding jobs require the professional to organize and manage all health care information by ensuring that the quality, accessibility, accuracy, and security are at optimum efficiency levels. Entailing both paper and electronic systems, this is accomplished by employing various classification systems to code and categorizing information from patients. This information is used to obtain insurance reimbursements, maintain registries and databases, and keep a handle on patient medical histories.
Where Do Medical Coders Work?
Most coding jobs do not require specialization in one particular medical field, as they tend to take place over a number of areas. Many of these workplaces can be interchangeable as professionals often work in more than one of the following places at the same time:
- Private clinics
- Nursing homes
- Care homes
- Surgical centers
- Medical buildings
- From home
What Are the Job Requirements?
There are two primary requirements for entering the medical coding field: education and certification.
In order to be considered for most medical coding jobs, you will need:
- A post-secondary certificate
- An associate’s degree program in health information technology
These educational requirements consist of various courses designed to prepare you for a real world job setting, and include:
- Medical terminology
- Health data standards and requirements
- Anatomy and physiology
- Classification and coding systems
- Healthcare reimbursement methods
- Healthcare statistics
- Computer systems
To be considered for acceptance, it is a good idea to focus on health, computer science, math, and biology courses in high school.
For many employers, the only way to ensure that their coding duties will be capably handled is to hire those who are certified in medical coding. This professional certification is available from many organizations in which an individual must pass an exam or graduate from an accredited program. After passing the exam, coders must renew their certification regularly with continuing education courses. Some common certification methods include:
- Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
- Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR)
Although the requirements vary by state, most certifications will require experience in a work setting, and some cancer registrar’s may need special certification.
Different Types of Medical Coding Jobs
There are many options available for a certified medical coding professional which will open them up to a variety of employment opportunities. Depending on training, experience and education, all of the following arenas of medical coding could become lucrative careers for anybody interested in pursuing these avenues:
- Medical: Medical coding experts normally work in fields such as dentistry, cancer patient care, and pediatrics.
- Coding Systems: Surgical centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and doctor’s offices all need coding systems experts.
- Insurance: Both private and public insurance companies, as well as government institutions like Medicaid and Medicare, all need insurance medical coding experts to handle the organization and filing of insurance claims.
- Patient: Whether inpatient, outpatient, or anybody receiving special care, these workers are in demand in many venues and practices.
Specialty Jobs in the Field
Here is a look at some of the more in-demand jobs available on the market today, and the duties they typically entail:
Medical Billing Clerk
- Maintaining patient records which are specific to goods, services, and procedures coming from a single health care facility.
- Generating invoices, printing bills, etc.
- Dealing with patients, insurance providers, merchants, and other service providers.
- Offering great communication and customer service skills due to the close proximity with which they work with patients and other professionals.
Medical Coding Specialist
- Review medical documents and extract vital information and data about patients’ conditions.
- Translate information using numerical coding into diagnostic and procedural systems.
- Handle insurance claims that are generated through this process.
- Know and adhere to federal regulations regarding this entire process.
Clinical Data Specialist
- Review, edit and correct data generated by internal computer systems.
- Check for accuracy and compliance, especially with regards to Medicaid and Medicare
- Oversee medical billing
Medical Coding From Home
- Analyze documentation provided, and assign diagnostic and procedural codes.
- Record this information for reimbursement processes.
- Medical research and statistics to ensure proper reimbursement codes are assigned.
- Prepare bills and submit claims to insurance companies, as well as the government.
- Must have your own computer, high-speed Internet access, and a proficiency for typing, math, and grammar.
What About the Pay?
For detailed information about how much you can make working in a clinic, hospital, or from home, read Medical Coding Salary Information and Statistics.