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Medical Coding Careers - How to Become a Medical Coder

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What is a Medical Coder? Overview of Medical Coding:

Medical coders work in the billing office, or “back office” of medical practices or hospitals. Medical coders help to complete, review, and process medical claims to help physician practices and hospitals get reimbursed from insurance companies for services and facilities provided to patients.

Each medical procedure and patient encounter has a number, or CPT code, associated with it which corresponds to another code for a diagnosis (an ICD code). This helps insurance companies account for, and track the money they reimburse to physicians and practices, to help prevent fraudulent medical claims or errors in payment.

Skills Required for Medical Coding:

Medical coders need to work well with numbers, and also should have a great attention to detail. While much of the job entails administrative tasks such as reviewing, processing, and submitting medical claims, some interpersonal skills are necessary. At times the medical coder may have to obtain additional information from a physician or other medical provider in the office. Also, the medical coder may have to contact insurance companies regarding questions about claims.

Medical coders should also be comfortable working with computers and various types of medical coding and billing software programs.

Educational Requirements and Professional Certifications for Medical Coders:

To become a medical biller or coder, you must have a high school diploma and pass an accredited program in medical coding. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers accredited certification courses to achieve a CPC certification (Certified Professional Coder), and other related certifications for medical coders. Courses are offered in a classroom setting, or online. Therefore, students often complete the coursework while employed elsewhere full-time. An accredited course should cost between $1,000 and $2,000.
The academy recommends completion of a medical terminology course and anatomy course prior to taking the medical coding course for certification.

Compensation for Certified Professional Coders:

According to Payscale Salary Calculation the average hourly rate for medical coders is $15.00, which equates to about $30,000 per year for a full-time employee. The average ranges from $13.49 to $17.19, or about $34,000 annually.

What's to Like:

Medical coders should continue to be in high-demand. Even though software has been developed to assist with the role, a qualified person is needed to enter the data, and follow up on any discrepancies between the health care provider (physician), the hospital, and the insurance company. An effective and efficient coder is essential to the financial success of a practice. The coders help the physicians to get reimbursed accurately and on time. The hours for medical coders are fairly set and standard - coders don't have to take call or work nights or weekends. A 40-hour work week, Monday through Friday, is standard.
Additionally, medical coding can be an excellent stepping stone into a more lucrative, higher-level career in medical office management, or medical office operations, if you wish to earn more or do more in the long-term, beyond medical coding.

What's Not to Like:

Medical coders do not have much interaction with patients. If you like a lot of regular interaction with patients then this role may not be for you. Additionally, medical coding can be a fairly routine job, so if you're looking for a lot of variety and excitement, or if you're not seeking a desk job, medical coding may not be for you.
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