July 26, 2022

5 Easy Steps: How to Become a Medical Coder

By B&SC Blog Team

5 Easy Steps: How to Become a Medical Coder

Start a New Career in Healthcare: How to Become a Medical Coder in 5 Easy Steps

Do you want to work in healthcare, but are not especially interested in working directly with patients? Consider becoming a medical coder!

Healthcare is a lucrative industry – even for those who do not work directly with patients. Medical coders have the best of both worlds, in that they work in a comfortable healthcare environment without having to provide direct patient care. The best part is that becoming a medical coder may be easier (and faster) than you think.

What do medical coders do?

Medical coders are essential in today’s healthcare system: Their work helps hospitals and medical offices calculate billing for each patient encounter. These healthcare professionals translate physician and nurse reports into uniform medical codes used for billing purposes and data management. The standardized codes tell insurance companies important information, such as:

  • The patient’s diagnosis
  • The services, treatments, and supplies the patient received
  • The medical necessity for the services, treatments, and supplies the patient received
  • Any medical conditions or circumstances that affected the treatments and services

Medical coding does more than ensure proper billing – the information medical coding provides helps officials track public health conditions, improve data for research, measure outcomes and care for patients, and determine which healthcare services are medically necessary. Because they translate pertinent patient information into anonymous codes, medical coders also ensure the privacy and security of patients’ personal information.

Clearly, medical coders are an essential part of the healthcare system. Becoming a medical coder requires training, of course, but students can enter healthcare in a matter of months rather than years.

5 Steps to Becoming a Medical Coder

1. Meet basic prerequisites

Medical coders should have a high school diploma or equivalent. Those with a criminal history of drug abuse or sex crimes may not be eligible. You should also have good interpersonal skills, as you will be working with many different people, including doctors, nurses, insurance companies, coding specialists and other medical records professionals.

2. Complete medical coding training

While there are no formal education requirements to become a medical coder, most employers want candidates with a certificate that shows the applicant has a solid foundational knowledge of medical coding. Completing medical billing and coding training programs demonstrates competency.

The training to become a medical coder can be completed in a matter of months, but it provides you with the skills you need to hit the ground running.

Medical coding coursework includes:

  • Coding Foundations
  • ICD-CM Coding
  • ICD-PCS Coding
  • Ambulatory Care Coding
  • Revenue Cycle and Billing

Healthcare organizations in the United States and around the world use a number of medical coding classification systems. Most countries use their own variation of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Healthcare professionals in the US use the ICD-10-CM, which includes 7-digit codes for anything that can cause illness, injury or death. The 69,000-strong classification system lays out the codes for conditions and disease, poisons, cancers, injuries, causes of injuries, and activities being performed when the injuries occurred. Healthcare professionals use ICD-10-CM to establish the medical necessity for the services and for tracking.

Other code sets include the Current Procedure Terminology (CPT) codes that describe the services medical professionals provide to patients, and the National Drug Codes (NDC) that report, track, and identify drugs prescribed, sold, and used. Dental offices use the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT) to bill oral and dental procedures, while hospitals use the International Classification of Diseases, Procedural Coding (ICD-10-PC) to describe surgical procedures.

3. Pass the CPC exam or other certification exams

Once you complete your medical coding program, you may want to undergo certification to validate your competency. A medical coding certification can help you gain employment in the professional setting you prefer.

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certificate indicates that the holder has special expertise in reviewing medical records and translating the information required to support accurate coding. The CPC is considered the “gold standard” for medical coding in a physician office setting.

The CPC certification exam measures your ability to apply various ICD-10-CM, CPT® and HCPCS Level II codes for the wide variety of services a physician may offer, such as patient evaluation and management, radiology, anesthesia, surgery, pathology, and medicine. The test will assess how well you know anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. And it will evaluate your working knowledge of medical coding regulations and guidelines.

An in-person certification exam can take several hours to complete and is comprised of dozens of questions. To optimize your performance and test scores, be sure to study, practice, and get plenty of rest in the days or weeks leading up to exam day.

4. Get a job

Medical coders are in high demand right now as more physician offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities seek coders to handle their health information needs. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics* (BLS) predicts that demand for medical coders and other health information specialists will rise by 9 percent from 2020 to 2029, which is on pace with other professions.

Many medical coders use networking to find the perfect job at the right salary and in an environment they prefer. Participating in a local AAPC network helps coders keep up with changes and advancements in their field. These networks provide opportunities to forge relationships with peers, mentors, and experts. Networking also gives members chances to learn from guest speakers and take on leadership roles. Perhaps the largest benefit of networking is that it allows you to let others know that you are available for employment and to learn about job openings. Your network of peers can recommend you when coding-related jobs open up.

5. Earn an advanced certification

Additional training and advanced certification can help you get coding specialist jobs in a wider variety of settings and may even help you move up the ladder and earn more money. Certified Coding Associate (CCA) certification demonstrates coding competency across all healthcare settings, including hospitals and physician practices. Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) is an advanced certification that requires work experience alongside your training.

Start Your Medical Coding Journey Today

Bryant & Stratton College can help you pursue your dream of working in healthcare without providing direct patient care by becoming a medical coder. Our medical reimbursement and coding associate degree program will prepare you for an entry-level position in medical coding and other areas of the healthcare industry.

Our medical coding program gives you the knowledge and skills you need to transform billable medical care into medical reimbursement codes. This service helps insurance companies accurately pay each claim so that doctors and other medical professionals get the reimbursement they deserve, and it helps patients continue receiving the medical services they need.

Bryant & Stratton College’s 60-credit associate degree program is specifically designed to meet the standards set by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). After graduating from our program, you can take the certification exam through either AHIMA or AAPC.

Once you finish our Bryant & Stratton College medical coding program, you can find the perfect job working for private practices, hospitals, clinics, long-term-care facilities, insurance providers, and other businesses within the healthcare industry.

The medical field continues to be one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, and the need for skilled medical coders is growing, as well. Take the first step towards a satisfying, interesting, and financially rewarding career as a medical coder.

*Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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