Be the intermediate cog in the giant wheel of the medical world and the insurance companies by working as a medical coding professional. Medical billing and coding personnel work in medical facilities such as hospitals and handle administrative tasks related to medical billing and health insurance. A medical coder is responsible for going through a doctor or hospital’s billing notes and records and assigning procedure and billing-specific codes. These medical codes are then used by insurance companies and healthcare providers to ensure correct billing and reimbursement.

Requirements of the Job
Medical coders’ are tasked with analyzing and documenting medical billing by translating a medical facility’s records into coded form that can then be used by insurance companies. For this reason, medical coding professionals are trained in understanding medical procedures and terminology. Medical coding is a desk-based job that requires traits such as patience, attention to detail, logic, comfort with computer systems, and a good memory. Medical Coders at large hospitals or office services providers might also be required to work in shifts.

As there are thousands of medical codes, terms, and abbreviations that are commonly used by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies, medical coders need to be adept at identifying and assigning the correct codes. Some tasks handled by medical coding personnel include:

  • Reviewing and verifying patient records
  • Ensuring integrity and confidentiality of patient records
  • Entering data electronically
  • Identifying and assigning medical codes for treatments and procedures
  • Updating patient records and healthcare databases
  • Tracking patient outcomes and health facility performance

How do I become a Medical Coder?
While there are no formal requirements for medical coders and it is possible for medical administrative personnel to start working as medical coding personnel, concerns over accuracy have led to a shift towards accredited and certified personnel – many organizations might only consider professionals who hold industry-recognized qualifications and certification.

There are several certificate and Associates’ courses available for aspiring medical coding personnel – some courses might also combine medical coding with medical billing and insurance industry-specific training.

In general, a course in medical coding will focus upon the following subjects:

  • Medical terminology, abbreviations, and procedures
  • Medical billing applications and information systems
  • Current Procedural Technology codes for medical procedures
  • ICD-9 codes for medical diagnoses
  • Ethics and legal issues in the healthcare industry
  • Hospital services
  • Medical costs and claims reimbursement processes

The main organizations responsible for issuing certifications for medical coders are the American Academy of Professional Coders and the American Health Information Management Association

What are the career prospects?
Most medical coding experts work for state hospitals, with physicians’ clinics being the next biggest employer. This field also offers freelance and part-time opportunities and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around 15 percent of Medical Records personnel worked part time in 2010.

According to the Department of Labor, the work category ‘Medical Records and Health Information Technicians’, which includes medical coding personnel, had a median annual wage of $32,350 a year in 2010. Jobs in this field are also growing at a faster than average rate. For many medical coding personnel, this career also opens the doors to a career in medical administration and management.