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How to Become a Medical Coder?

how to become a medical coder

Do you want a career in the medical field?

Are you interested in helping doctors and other healthcare professionals diagnose and treat patients?

If so, you may want to consider becoming a medical coder! Medical coders play an important role in the healthcare industry and are responsible for translating medical terminology into codes that can be understood by computers.

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So, let’s take an in-depth look at How to Become a Medical Coder. What a medical coder does daily, and the different types of medical coding careers available. Hopefully, this information will help you decide if becoming a medical coder is the right career choice for you!

how to become a medical coder

What is a Medical Coder?

As mentioned, they are responsible for translating medical terminology into code that can be understood and manipulated by computers. These codes are used to bill insurance companies and other healthcare services provided by doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.

The coding process allows the patients’ health information to be stored securely on a computer system. While ensuring that they get the proper treatment based on their needs.

Read more: What is Code 3 at Lowe’s?

Medical Coder Salary And Job Growth

The average salary for a Medical Coder is $46,000. The job growth rate for this profession is expected to be about 15% over the next decade. More people become health-conscious and seek treatment from doctors or other healthcare professionals. This means that there will be an increased need for medical coders in the future.

How To Become A Medical Coder?

The first step is deciding what type of coding you want to specialize in. There are two main types of coding – ICD-CM and CPT/HCPCS code sets. This stands for International Classification Disease Clinical Modification and Current Procedural Terminology/Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, respectively.

ICD-CM codes are used for diagnosis coding, while CPT/HCPCS codes cover procedures and services performed by doctors or other healthcare professionals on patients. ICD-CM is more widely used than CPT/HCPCS because it covers all aspects of medicine, including both diagnoses and procedures.

Two types of programs…

You can choose from two types of medical coding programs: Associate Degree or Certificate Program (Certified Professional Coder). An Associate Degree program trains you how to code in ICD-CM and CPT/HCPCS code sets. While a Certificate Program teaches you only one type of coding system.

Code Certification And Testing

Once you have chosen the type of coder training that is right for you, it is time to get certified by taking an exam through either AHIMA or AAPC. Both organizations offer online testing with live proctors who will help guide students during their exams if needed.

After passing the exam and earning your certification as a Certified Professional Coder, there are several different ways that employers may require coders to demonstrate their knowledge of coding.

Stay up to date…

Certification Exams are required every two years by most employers and help ensure that coders stay up-to-date on the latest changes in medical terminology and coding procedures. Some employers require new hires to take these exams, while others will pay for existing employees’ training so they can pass this exam with flying colors!

In some cases, your employer may also require you to attend classes or workshops. In these, instructors teach students about specific topics related to medical coding, such as anatomy/physiology review courses or ICD-CM code sets.

how to become the medical coder

If there’s no on-site training…

If your company does not provide on-site training sessions during work hours (or if there is not enough time during those hours), then it is likely that your job will require some sort of self-study outside of work hours. So be prepared with extra reading materials before starting a new assignment!

Each year, the AHIMA and AAPC offer exams for their Certified Professional Coders (CPCs). The exam is given twice each calendar year; an exam taken in October counts as two years towards renewal, while one taken in April only counts as once.

Applying For Medical Coder Jobs

Once you have earned your certification from either organization, it is time for you are ready to start looking at different positions within companies that employ medical coders.

It is important when applying for these jobs that you understand what type of coding skills each company requires. Some companies will only hire someone with an Associate Degree or Certificate Program (Certified Professional Coder).

Look for work online…

While other employers may require both ICD-CM and CPT/HCPCS code sets to get hired as a medical coder. The best way to determine this information is by looking through job listings online at places like Indeed, Monster Jobs, and LinkedIn.

The next step after finding the right position would be submitting your application materials along with a resume highlighting any relevant experience and education-related qualifications. These can include certifications earned from AHIMA’s website and AAPC’s website where applicable (these organizations provide free resources such as cover letters, resume templates, and interview tips on their websites).

Research the company beforehand…

Once you have applied for a medical coding position, it is important to be prepared for the interview process. This usually includes a phone screening with someone from HR and then an in-person meeting with the hiring manager. Be sure to do your research on the company before going into the interview!

Employers want to see that you are familiar with both their organization as well as medical coding in general.

The Duties of a Medical Coder

Now that I have covered some of the basics related to becoming a certified medical coder, what exactly does this job entail?

In general, most coders will work full-time hours (usually around 40 hours per week). Are responsible for reviewing patient charts to determine diagnoses codes based on documentation provided by doctors or other healthcare professionals.

From simple check-ups to surgery…

This can include anything from simple check-ups where nothing has gone wrong with the patient all the way up through surgeries, emergency visits, and even death certificates – it all depends on what type of coding job you are applying for!

The next few sections will outline some common duties within each category so that you know exactly what might be expected when applying as well as typical pay scales associated with those different types of coders.

Types of Medical Coders And What They Do?

There are many different types of medical coders out there, but I will focus on the four main categories: Professional Services Coding, Clinical Coding, Hospital Coding, and Physician Office Coding.

Professional Services Coders

This type of coder is generally responsible for working with insurance companies. Get claims paid correctly as well as review patient bills for accuracy. They are also in charge of maintaining client relationships and may need to go onsite periodically for training or other meetings. The median pay for this position is usually around $50,000 annually.

Clinical Coders

These work mainly within hospitals, and their main focus is on assigning diagnosis codes (ICD-CM) to patients’ charts. They also may be required to track medical supplies and equipment usage as well as monitor budgets to make sure that costs do not exceed allotted funds. The national average salary for this type of coder is about $60,000.

how to become the medical coders

Hospital Coders

These coders are responsible for the entire coding process within a hospital setting. This includes everything from assigning procedure codes (CPT/HCPCS) to creating charge tickets and billing patients.

They also might be in charge of ensuring that all charges are correct and accounted for before sending bills out to insurance companies. The average salary for a hospital coder is around $63,000 per year.

Physician Office Coders

As the title suggests, these medical coders work primarily in doctor’s offices, and their main focus is on charging patients correctly for services rendered as well as submitting accurate claims to insurance providers. This position usually pays around $35,000 annually.

A Day In The Life Of A Medical Coder

Now that you have an idea of what to expect, let’s take a closer look at what a day in the life of a medical coder is like.

Typically, most coders will arrive at their place of employment between the hours of eight and nine in the morning. They will usually spend the first hour or so catching up on emails and voicemails, as well as checking for any updates that may have been posted to the company’s coding software.

Assigning the appropriate codes…

Once the morning routine is complete, it is time to get down to business! This usually entails reviewing patient charts and assigning appropriate diagnosis codes. In addition to this, coders are also responsible for maintaining coding databases, creating charge tickets, and occasionally billing patients.

Lunch usually falls somewhere around the middle of the day and is most often used as an opportunity to catch up on paperwork or discuss any problems that may have arisen with co-workers.

Keep on top of your correspondence!

The afternoon is usually when coders will spend the majority of their time reviewing charts and assigning codes. Once that task is complete, they may move on to creating charge tickets or billing patients. This depends on what type of coding position is held.

The final hour or so before clocking out typically involves checking emails and voicemails one last time, as well as making sure all paperwork has been filed correctly. Coders also often use this time to review any changes that may have been made throughout the day.

Professional Medical Coder Associations And Groups In The US

Now that you know a little more about what medical coders do, let’s take a look at some of the professional associations and groups that are available to coders in the United States. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) is one of the most well-known and respected organizations for medical coders. It provides certification exams as well as continuing education opportunities to members.

Another prominent association is the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Although this group focuses on more than just coding, they do offer a variety of resources that may be helpful for those who are looking to enter into this field or advance their careers within it.

Resources For Medical Coders

Now that you know a little more about medical coding, it is time to start exploring some of the resources that are available. To help you learn more and get started in this career!

One great place to start is the AAPC website. This organization offers a variety of certification exams as well as continuing education opportunities. They also have an extensive database of job postings. And an online forum where you can connect with other medical coders from around the world.

Find the right type of coding for you…

Another great resource for those who are just getting started in this field is AHIMA’s website. This organization offers a variety of resources, including certification exams and continuing education opportunities, as well as information about jobs available within the healthcare industry.

Finally, there are several different types of medical coding programs. These are available through colleges and universities across the country. They may be able to help you get started in this field.

Additional Medical Coding Info And Advice!

Let’s first take a look at my Medical Coder Job Description, my Medical Biller Job Description, and my Medical Director Job Description, or how about my Medical Receptionist Interview Questions, as well as Companies That Hire For Medical Coding Jobs, and my Companies That Hire For Medical Billing Jobs in 2023.

Perhaps you’d like to improve your skills or become a medical coder. For that, I highly recommend the Medical Terminology & Anatomy for Coding or the insightful Medical Terminology Quick Learn: The Easiest Guide to Mastering Basic Medical Terminology and Medical Billing & Coding For Dummies, and Medical Coding: A Quickstudy Laminated Reference Guide, all available online today.

Lastly, if you’re looking for references, check out the 2022 Coders’ Desk Reference for ICD-10-CM Diagnoses or the HCPCS 2023 Level II Professional Edition (HCPCS Level II (American Medical Assn)), and finally, the ICD-10-CM Documentation 2023: Essential Chartin Guidance to Support Medical Necessity.

Final Thoughts

Medical Coding is a great career choice for those who want to make an impact on people’s lives. They can help them access healthcare services they otherwise would not be able to afford. It is also a great way for individuals who have experience in the healthcare industry but do not want to work directly with patients every day.

If you are interested in learning more about what medical coders do or How to Become a Medical Coder, check out some of the resources I’ve listed today!

All the very best in your new career as a Medical Coder!

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About Calvin Miller

Calvin has over 20 years of experience in a leading employment agency in Tucson, Arizona, and is passionate about finding the perfect position for everyone who uses the company’s services.

He lives with his wife, Annette, and their two sons Jake and Joseph.

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