How to Become a Medical Coder

Medical coders are in high demand, and consequently many individuals are wondering how to become a medical coder. Medical coders are highly trained record keepers of health information who classify patient records using software and other forms of health management systems. Medical coders are responsible for organizing and managing patient data, insurance programs, physician diagnoses, procedures, treatments, invoicing, and other health information. Medical coders must maximize security, efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility of patient records, insurance information, and billing systems by utilizing a number of different coding systems based upon health care facilities and patient bases. Medical coders act as liaisons between insurance companies, patients, and health care facilities to ensure compliance, proper compensation and reimbursement and that regulations are followed. Individuals interested in gaining the qualifications necessary to become medical coders generally must complete an associate degree, gain certification, and complete work experiences offered through internships or on the job training.

High school students interested in preparing for a career as a medical coder may begin long before earning their diploma. Students may participate in courses like: English, biology, computer science, communications, health, mathematics, and chemistry. High school graduates generally advance to certification or associate degree programs to fulfill the educational requirements necessary to establish a medical coding career. Certification programs require a one year time investment and consist of courses offering basic knowledge of the health care system, information technology, medical terminology, and coding software. Courses include: medical billing, physician based medical coding, medical terminology for billers and coders, medical billing software, physician based chart auditing, and hospital based case studies. Individuals who complete certificate programs may advance to entry level positions within a number of health care facilities or continue studies within associate degree programs.

Associate degree programs in medical coding offer students an expanded understanding of the field as well as means to refine their skills. Courses at an associate degree program include: medical terminology, health information technology, anatomy and physiology, health data requirements and standards, data analysis, clinical classification and coding systems, health care reimbursement methods, medical ethics and laws, database security and management, abstract coding, medical insurance and finance, and quality improvement methods. Graduates who complete associate degree programs often advance to entry level employment or continue studies within bachelor degree programs.

Bachelor degree programs in health information management disciplines with a concentration in medical coding allows individuals to expand and specialize their skills. Courses include: anatomy and physiology, radiology coding, pathology coding, healthcare laws and ethics, medical terminology, pharmacology, ICD coding, CPT non surgical coding, insurance compliance, and insurance abuse and fraud. Graduates with bachelor degrees generally advance to employment or continue studies within a related discipline, like health information management, health informatics, or health care administration as masters and doctoral degrees in medical coding do not exist. Graduates who complete bachelor degree programs generally advance to employment or continue studies within related educational disciplines like health care administration, health informatics, or information management.

Graduates with degrees in medical coding often gain certification offered through the American Health Information Management Association or the American Academy of Professional Coders. Many employers require candidates to complete certification examinations as a demonstration of their knowledge, skills, and competency in the field and seek Certified Professional Coders. Medical coders are required to continue education through seminars, workshops, and other training programs offered through employer or licensing organizations. With this information on how to become a medical coder, you’re well on your way to a satisfying career in this field.

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