Behind the scenes of every interaction in healthcare exists a medical code and a medical coder who inputs the information. Medical coding classes exist to prepare those who wish to become a medical coder.
Medical coding is a record-keeping method that dates as far back as the 17th century in England. Medical coding transforms healthcare procedures, diagnoses, and services into a universal medical alphanumeric code.
This makes it easy to store medical records and submit medical billing. What was once used to determine the cause of the cholera epidemic has since evolved into a massive and universal method of collecting data for a purpose.
Beyond getting bills paid, medical coding is providing a positive effect that’s aiding in risk management, supporting public health, understanding utilization of services, and building actuarial tables.
What is a Medical Coder?
A medical coder is the person who takes a physicians’ report and transforms it into medical codes. They make sure that the code assigned accurately reflects the work, diagnosis, equipment, and procedure that was used in the physicians’ interaction with a patient. They do so by reviewing clinical statements and then assigning the necessary and standard codes using one of the common classification systems.
Coding systems are: CPT, HCPCS Level II, and ICD-10-CM. When you are studying to become a medical coder, you will take classes in each of these classification systems to gain expertise.
Medical coders are pivotal in the industry of healthcare as their role helps to get people paid. A doctor’s office submits the bill with medical codes to the insurance companies. The specific codes make it easy to understand what exactly happened and the universal nature of it helps to avoid errors and accurately charge for services.
Medical coders provide documentation that appears in standard codes so that payers know the following information:
- A patient’s diagnosis
- Treatments, services, and supplies given to the patient
- Any unusual circumstances that may have affected treatment
- The medical necessity of treatments, services, and supplies that were provided
Where Do Medical Coders Work?
The broad nature of medical care means that medical coders have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings. You can find medical coders in doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals, urgent care, treatment centers, and nursing homes, for example. Additionally, insurance providers may employ medical coders so that they can assist with patient claims. It’s also possible that a law firm would hire a medical coder if they are investigating billing fraud.
What are Medical Coding Skills?
The top employers hiring medical coders seek those with various technical and transferable skills. Here’s a look at the mix of skills that a medical coder should possess:
- Inpatient coding
- Outpatient coding
- Customer billing
- HCPCS coding
- CPT coding
- Communication skills
- Attention to detail
- Microsoft suite
- Time management
How to Become a Medical Coder
Becoming a medical coder requires certification and training, so there is no degree necessary. It’s possible to complete the training in as little as nine months.
Once you’ve completed the medical coding program, it’s recommended to pass the CCA (Certified Coding Associate) or CCS (Certified Coding Specialist) exam. While the latter isn’t always required, it’s often preferred by employers.
Typical Medical Coding Classes
You may be wondering, “What classes are required for medical billing and coding?” Here’s a brief overview of some of the typical medical coding classes that you can expect to complete. These may also be taken online.
- Medical Coding Basics
- Getting to Know ICD-10CM
- Coding the Respiratory System
- Coding the Cardiovascular System
- Coding the Digestive and Endocrine Systems
- Coding the Integumentary System
- Coding the Musculoskeletal System
- E/M Codes
- Surgical Packages
As a patient, you never really have to think twice about medical coding. But all of your medical care can be translated into alphanumeric codes that make up the universal medical coding system.
These codes are an integral piece of the healthcare system, allowing doctors and medical care facilities to properly bill insurance and patients to receive the benefits they are owed.
As a medical coder, you are ultimately helping healthcare function properly. The coding system expedites billing and also ensures that all information is accurately reflected. These are just a few of the reasons why becoming a medical coder can be a very rewarding career path.