Medical coding is part of the ever-growing healthcare information industry, and medical coders are essential to the field. Without coders, doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers would not get paid. Medical coders apply the proper code to procedures and services, and those codes are then sent to private and public insurance companies for payment on services rendered. Medical coders must be detail-oriented and accurate. Mistakes could result in costly delays of payment from insurance companies.
Medical coders work in a variety of settings - ranging from doctor's offices to hospitals. Law firms and insurance agencies often hire qualified medical coders to help with claims of fraud.
While there are some disadvantages to medical coding - breaking in isn't always easy and you'll have little or no interaction with patients - there are plethora of advantages medical coders enjoy. In this section, we'll take a look at what you can expect from medical coding - both the pros and the cons.
- Growing field. The healthcare information industry is growing steadily, and the demand for qualified medical coders is high. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2005 employment outlook report, the health information field (including medical coding) is on pace to grow faster than average through 2014. The report also states, "Job prospects should be very good; technicians with a strong background in medical coding will be in particularly high demand."
That means now is the perfect time for those entering the job market for the first time, and those seeking a career change, to begin a career in medical coding. If you're looking for a career where you'll have a lot of interaction with patients, you'll want to consider an option other than medical coding. Medical coders either have very little or no interaction with patients.
- Opportunity to work from home. While not all employers allow their medical coders to work from home, some do. The key is finding those who employ at-home medical coders. We'll discuss how to find those employers later.
- Always learning. If you love to learn, you'll love the opportunity medical coding offers. You'll need to be well-versed in medical terminology, and you'll have to keep up-to-date with all of the codes. Changes or additions to ICD-9 codes are made yearly. CPT codes are often changed or added to four times each year. That means you'll always have to be aware of the changes and how they affect you when you do your job.
- Certification by the American Academy of Professional Coders and the American Health Information Management Association both require medical coders to take continuing education credits each year.
- You can specialize. You may choose to specialize in a certain area - such as cardiology, chiropractic, emergency medicine or hematology-oncology. The American Academy of Professional Coders offers specialty certification, if you decide that's a path you want to pursue.
- Room for advancement. Medical coders have numerous opportunities for advancement, especially those coders with college degrees. Among the positions medical coders have advanced to are: director of a health information department, coding supervisor or assistant director of a medical coding department. Success depends only on your willingness to learn, advance yourself educationally and to work hard.
- Opportunity to network. Medical coders have plenty of opportunities for networking with fellow coders, whether it's through professional organizations like The American Health Information Management Association or on online message boards devoted specifically for medical coders.
Networking affords you both the opportunity to meet fellow medical coders, and it allows you to showcase your skills and talents. Through your networking, you may meet potential employers and gain valuable references. Take every opportunity to meet and mingle with other medical coders.
To meet and discuss the field with other medical coders, you might want to check out these message boards:
Message boards are a wonderful gathering place that allow new medical coders (or those who are considering medical coding as a career) to talk with experienced coders, share information and solicit and give advice.