Medical Coder

How to Become a Medical Coder
Medical Coder Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Medical Coder
Medical Coder Salary
Influential Professionals in the Medical Coder Field
Leading Medical Coder Organizations
Top Cities for Medical Coding Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Medical Coder

Records must be generated once a patient visits a medical facility to receive health care. These records consist of the observations made, the medical interventions made, the surgical mediations applied and the resultant outcomes of the treatment. More aspects that are reflected in the records include medical histories, symptom observations, the results of x-ray and laboratory tests, and the course of treatment prescribed. These records are checked for accuracy and then properly maintained by medical record and health information personnel. Medical coders are health record information personnel who specialize in the coding of these records for the purposes of insurance.

People who look forward to pursuing careers in medical coding are usually equipped with associate degrees in medical health and record information from community colleges or junior colleges. To get employment it is preferred that applicants are Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT). The associate degree course for this profession includes studies in medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, data coding, abstraction of data, statistics, computer studies, database management, etc. high school qualifications in math, biology, computer studies, health, and chemistry are necessary to qualify for the aforementioned course. Employers prefer hiring medical coders who are RHIT registered. In addition these medical coders must first pass the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) written examinations. Prior to taking this exam, applicants need to have completed the two-year associate degree course from Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accredited centers. Like in other professions, employers prefer persons who have earned experience in the field. Medical coders have to possess proper and refined communication skills since they will often be required to serve as liaisons between their employers and other associated organizations including insurance firms and other health care establishments. Adeptness in using computers is readily desirable since it is now the trend for all practices to adopt computer technology. There are no specialized courses on offer for medical coders. These registry and coding skills are usually learned and perfected on the job. However, some colleges include 1-2 week programs in coding. There are various organizations that offer certification in coding. The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialist (PAHCS) and Board of Medical Specialty Coding offer certification for medical coders in specialty medical areas. AHIMA proffers certification for Certified Healthcare Privacy and Security. This is specifically in response to fears about the protection of electronic records. Senior medical coders who have RHIT certifications usually get promoted to the position of assistant or full director of medical record and health information departments.

What does a Medical Coder do?

Medical coders are also referred to as medical record coders, coders/abstractors, health information coders or coding specialists. Medical coders are responsible for assigning of codes for every diagnosis and medical procedure that is carried out for every patient. To do this medical coders rely on their knowledge of ailment and disease processes. Medical coders then make use of classification system software programs to allocate a patient to a single diagnosis related group, DRG. There are several hundred DRG classifications. Each of these helps in determining the amount of recompense the hospital will receive from Medicare or any other insurance program that covers the patient. These insurance firms also make use of the DRG system. There are also coding systems that are designed for ambulance services, long-term patient care, and physician offices.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Medical Coder?

Medical coding is one of the few professions in the medical industry that does not necessarily require close or direct contact with patients. Although medical coders work in the relative comfort of office setups they are required to be alert as they work since their job description needs the highest levels of accuracy and concentration. Medical coders use computers in their day-to-day work. Persons in the profession are cautioned against eyestrain and eye muscle discomfort. Medical coders must have endurance and stamina to process the many DRG requirements. The job is usually stretched across a 40-hour working week. Some healthcare facilities are opened 24 hours daily, 7 days per week. Medical coders can therefore adjust themselves to work in day, evening, or night shifts. As mentioned above, medical coders need to have excellent communication skills to deal effectively with insurance firms and other healthcare facilities.

How much does a Medical Coder make?

In May of 2006 medical coders earned an annual median average of $28,030. Medical coders who are placed in the highest 10 percentile earned $45,260. Their counterparts in the lowest 10 percentile made an average of $19,060. Medical coders employed in the general and surgical hospitals were paid an average of $29,400 in the period of May 2006. Medical coders employed in outpatient care facilities earned an average of $26,680 while those employed in nursing care facilities made an average amount of $28,410. The least paid medical coders were those who were based in physicians' offices. They made $24,170 in the same period.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Susan Garrison, CHC, CCS-P, PCS, FCS, CPAR, CPC, CPC-H is the managing director of Med Law Advisors Inc which is based in Dawsonville, Georgia. The firm has made a name for itself in medical expert witness service. Med Law Advisors Inc. also offers expert testimony services and medical litigations support. The firm offers expert services in the areas of medical coding, documentation, and billing with regard to insurance claims and records.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

Outsource Management Group is a Bloomington, Indiana based firm that offers services in the areas of medical coding and medical billing. This is in addition to offering consultancy and reimbursement services to physicians in the US.

What are the top cities for Medical Coding jobs?

Medical coders have great job prospects given that there are huge volumes of medical records that need to be coded daily in the numerous health facilities found around the country. Coders must have the relevant skills in computer technology to adapt to the constantly improving coding systems. The top city destinations for medical coders are Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, Rochester, and Syracuse.

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