As hospitals move to electronic medical records and the coding system moves from ICD-9 to ICD-10, those specializing in EMRs and coding will be in high demand.
Medical coders are essential in the medical billing process. Coders assign codes (i.e. ICD-9 codes) for each visit a patient makes to a healthcare provider. Codes are based on the services provided as documented in the patient’s charts by the healthcare provider. The coder then creates a claim to be paid by either the patient or insurance.
Medical coders work in a variety of healthcare settings and non-clinical settings as well. If you’re looking to stay in a healthcare setting, you may work in home healthcare, surgery centers, mental health facilities, dental offices, and physician or group practices.
If you’d like to work outside the clinical setting, you may work in insurance companies, consulting firms, and independent billing and coding services.
To become a medical coder, you need a firm grasp on anatomy and medical terminology. A high school diploma is sometimes the only degree you need, but consider an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in health information, anatomy, or something similar.
Moreover, certification from an accredited program is highly encouraged. Most employers prefer candidates with credentials from American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
Certification programs take about a year to complete, and an accredited program costs between $1,000 and $2,000. Be sure to check AAPC’s list of accredited courses. Courses are available in a classroom or online setting to fit your schedule. Both AHIMA and AAPC offer online courses.
Depending on the facility and your skillset, you could be trained entirely on the job, as a medical coding specialist is classified as an apprenticeable occupation.
Medical coding is a field in which continuous education is not only necessary, but will undoubtedly be beneficial to your career. Joining associations like AAPC can help you keep your skills up-to-date.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists medical coders under medical records and health information technicians, a field projected to grow much faster than average at 22% from 2012-2022. The 2012 median pay was $34,160; however, the pay varies greatly from state to state, with Massachusetts, New York and Illinois among the highest-paying, while Idaho, South Dakota and Alaska among the lowest.
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