Medical Coder

Are you the person everyone wants on their team for Trivial Pursuit? Are you the one who can't leave the office until that last report is done? Do you do your best work with minimal supervision or independently? Would you like to work in one of the fastest growing healthcare fields today? If so, consider a career as a medical coder. The US government predicts an increase in medical coding/billing jobs of up to 39% between 2000 and 2010.

What is a medical coder?

To put it simply, a medical coder is a translator between the health care provider and the health cost payer. In other words, as a medical coder, you will assign a standardized code to any disease, condition, procedure or treatment provided by a physician or other health care practitioner. This code will be used to identify exactly what was diagnosed or treated for the insurance company or Medicare, so they will know exactly how much to reimburse the physician or hospital.

What does a medical coder do in a typical day?

This depends upon where you are employed. In a hospital or clinic, a coder may spend all day assigning codes from patient records and entering them into a database. In a clinic or well staffed physician's office, a coder may assign codes and also spend part of the day electronically filing insurance claims. In a small office, where there is no separate medical billing specialist, the coder may do this also, including corresponding with insurance companies, answering patient's questions about claims, and dealing with bill collections.

What type of person makes a good coder?

Certain personality traits or abilities are particularly suited to this field. Detail-oriented people, those who love learning something new and perfectionists are well suited to become coders. If you love to read and solve puzzles, this could be an ideal job for you. It is essential that the correct code is used, so if you are a problem solver who refuses to give up until you succeed, you will probably do very well as a coder.

What kind of salary does a medical coder make?

According to the US Dept of Labor, in 2004, the median salary for a medical coder was $25,590. The American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) cites an average salary of $27,108 for non-certified coders and $33, 232 for certified coders. This is expected to increase during the next several years, as medical coders are listed as one of the 20 fastest growing occupations.

What type of education is required to become a medical coder?

A typical medical coding program will include classes in medical terminology, human anatomy/physiology, CPT coding, ICD-9 coding and basic insurance and computer procedures. Some courses also include classes on human diseases and medical office procedures You must have a high school diploma or GED to enter a program. Courses vary in length from 4 months to 2 years. There are hundreds of community colleges and business schools that offer programs in medical coding. There are even a number of online training programs such as Meditec or CBT Direct available.

“If you like being a detective, a researcher and a puzzle solver, medical coding is a field you want to get into.”---Lauren S., Medical Coder

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