Are you detail oriented? Do you have good people and technical skills? Then the fascinating and fun career of a medical coder could be just the right fit for you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts that this field will grow faster than average over the next decade. Demand for professionals like medical coders will continue to grow with the extensive use of electronic health records and the need for more specificity in billing.
What is a Medical Coder?
A medical coder is a professional who takes information on diagnosis, treatment, tests, and procedures from medical notes and translates them into codes using universal coding systems. These codes tell insurers clearly what is being billed. A medical coder must have a good understanding of anatomy, physiology and common illness as well as medical terminology.
Medical coders work in many environments, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. While this may mean that some coders become more specialized in their work, most coders have the following responsibilities:
- Read and analyze patient records, including doctors' notes, orders for tests and prescriptions
- Review patient information for preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, so patient data can be coded properly
- Assign appropriate diagnoses and procedure codes for patient care, population health statistics, and billing purposes
- Manage detailed, specifically coded information
- Interact with physicians and assistants to ensure accuracy of codes
- Work as a liaison between the healthcare providers and billing offices
- Maintain patient confidentiality and information security
Career Outlook for Medical Coders
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for all health information technicians, of which medical coders are a part, is expected to grow 13 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is faster than the average for all occupations. As the population ages, more specialized records organization and management skills will be necessary to handle health information data. For instance, medical coders use specialized codes for Medicare called HCPCS codes. Also, the increased use of electronic health records (EHRs) by healthcare providers will boost the demand for medical coders and other technicians to manage and organize information within the healthcare industry.
Those with good computer skills will fare best, as will those who distinguish themselves with the proper education and certifications. A medical reimbursement and coding associate degree from Bryant & Stratton College could be exactly what you need to launch you into an exciting and fulfilling career as a medical coder.
What can I do with a Medical Reimbursement and Coding Associate Degree?
A medical reimbursement and coding associate degree from Bryant & Stratton College will prepare you for a career in medical coding. You will be ready for an entry-level position as a medical coder for any number of businesses within the healthcare industry. Examples include private practices, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and insurance providers.
This degree program conforms to the standards by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Having completed this degree program, you will be prepared to take the industry preferred AHIMA Certified Coding Specialist certification.
You will learn to carry out medical coding, billing, transcription, data processing and record keeping. You will gain an understanding of medical terminology, as well as the structure and organization of the body's systems. Further, you will learn about common pharmacological treatments.
After completing this program, you will be able to use protocols specific to diagnostically coding illnesses, injury, and medical services for patients receiving healthcare services in hospitals and physician practices. You will understand the concept and theory of diagnostic and procedural coding in physician and hospital environments.
Since most medical coding positions require an associate degree, this tailored program should be just what you need to set you on the path to your chosen career as a medical coder.
Medical coders are always continuing their education. The consult each other, meet on online forums, and even go to national conferences to keep their skills honed. Ongoing training is available. Also, there are coding-related periodicals that medical coders can read to keep their knowledge up-to-date. And, there is always room for advancement. For instance, you could become a coding auditor as well.
Employment Settings for Medical Coders
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2016, the largest employer of medical coders, and related professionals, was hospitals (state, local and private) at 36 percent. Physicians' offices employed another 19 percent, while about 8 percent were employed by administrative and support services. Another 7 percent were employed by professional, scientific, and technical services. And, nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) employed about 6 percent at that time.
Most medical coders work in offices. However, there is a market for remote medical coders as well. To be a remote medical coder, you generally need previous office experience. Medical coders spend a lot of time working at their computers, as well as reading.
This is primarily a full-time job, though some who work from home may do so part-time. Depending on the facility you work for, it is possible that you may even be asked to do shift work.
While this information may help you in determining the right career path for you, understand that job market data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook is intended to provide insight into occupational opportunities, and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. Bryant & Stratton College cannot guarantee employment in any field.
For insights into a career as a medical coder, please visit the Healthcare Degrees section of our blog. Here you will find valuable information about a career as a medical coder as well as remote coding opportunities.