What Is Medical Coding?

In order for the healthcare industry to operate correctly, many people must take part in different aspects of the field, and not only the ones you notice. While doctors and nurses may be the face of the industry that most of us are familiar with, there are many people who work behind the scenes and play an integral in keeping the wheels of the system in motion. One of the most important jobs in this end of the health care industry is that of the medical coder.

Image courtesy of akeeris / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In its simplest definition, a medical coding professional’s job is to organize, code and file records for each individual patients that visits a facility or practice. People who work in profession are often referred to as medical coding specialists, health information technicians, health information coders and a variety of other titles. Whichever name you know them by, one thing is for sure: medical coding experts are a vital cog in the wheel of the medical profession, without which, all things would grind to a halt.

What Does Medical Coding Accomplish?

A medical coding professional can either work on-site or from home. Regardless of location, their task is straightforward and very important. With each visit that a patient makes to their doctor (or other medical provider), documentation must be kept on file; the main purpose of which is to ensure that patient histories are comprehensive and easily available so doctors can make informed, life-saving medical decisions. With the full history of a patient available at the click of a button, doctors are better able to diagnose and treat people accurately and in a timely manner. Additionally, medical coding accomplishes the following goals:

  • Giving patients more freedom to switch doctors due to the fact that their charts and histories are easily transferable.
  • Providing instantaneous access to a patient’s vital records in case of emergencies, whether near or far, including blood type, allergies, family history, surgical past, and more.
  • Providing doctors with a full record of a patient’s history, allowing them to see progressive patterns that they might have otherwise missed, leading to better diagnoses of diseases.
  • Helping the practice as a whole to run more smoothly as a result of the easy retrieval system put into place.
  • Allowing insurance companies to reimburse doctors and hospitals for treating their clients. Without proper coding on the charts, doctors could not get paid by insurance companies for their services.

What Does a Coding Professional Do?

Simply put, without medical coding many patients would die in emergency situations and doctors would not get paid, directly leading to them going out of business and serious illnesses going undetected. In short, the medical industry would fail both patients and doctors alike. The strict attention to detail with which coding experts perform their jobs allows them to take on the following tasks:

  • Making sure that all charts and forms are filled out accurately and completely. This oftentimes means that a coding professional is the last line of safety checks for both the patient and the doctor.
  • Making sure that the proper signatures are on all of the proper forms to ensure there are no snags with either the patient’s treatment/prescriptions or the doctor’s payments.
  • Ensuring that billing procedures and reimbursement operations are all working in a timely and organized manner.
  • Making use of computer software programs to accurately organize the files and histories of patients and their billings, ensuring the fast retrieval of both.

Essentially, medical coding consists of organizing and managing all health care information coming in and out of the office, as well as any necessary data that is vital to the quality, accessibility and accuracy to a place of work. This is accomplished through both paper and electronic systems to ensure the rapid retrieval of data and information is both accessible and understandable to all concerned parties (as well as keeping this data secure from any parties that should not be privy to it).

By employing classification systems consisting of various medical codes, coders are able to accomplish these tasks, allowing insurance reimbursements to take place, the maintenance of registries and databases, and the rapid retrieval of patient medical histories.

It is important to understand that despite how it may sound, medical coding is much more than simple data entry. Industry professionals must be extremely familiar with medical terminology and have an understanding of various diseases and treatments in order to accurately and quickly complete the task at hand. Not only will this allow them to research data and records, but also to ascertain the proper codes to use on documentation to eliminate any problems that might arise. Therefore, this job takes foresight, an incredible attention to detail and passion for learning.

Where Do Medical Coders Work?

Because medical coding is an all-encompassing field, those trained in the craft are able to take on a wide variety of jobs throughout the healthcare industry. In fact, many coding specialists work in a variety of places at the same time to increase their pay, making this profession a lucrative one for many. Further, the added flexibility of the industry allows many people to work from home, something especially attractive to those with families, other jobs or school obligations.

As a professional in the field, you can expect to find work in hospitals, nursing homes, care homes, private clinics, doctor’s offices, private practices, surgical centers, dentist’s offices, medical buildings and from home.

Next Steps

For more information on how you can get started down the path to becoming a medical coder, read How to Become a Medical Coder in 5 Steps or Less; an exciting and lucrative career awaits you.


  1. is it as hard as it sounds?

Speak Your Mind