If you want to become a medical coder, perhaps you know by now that the first yet very important step towards attaining that goal is to take up a medical coding course from a reputable institution.
Medical coding is not just a typical day-to-day job. It requires knowledge and expertise. Without proper training, you won’t get into the job.
Here’s the thing, though, medical coding, as well as medical billing, are two very in-demand jobs these days.
In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2019, there are 341,600 people employed in the medical records and health information technicians industry — the job category where both medical coders and billers belong.
Based on recent projections, the job outlook for this industry is seen at 8% between 2019 and 2029, which is, by the way, much faster than average.
Experts believe that the increasing demand for both medical coders and billers are due to the continuous innovation in the healthcare industry – thanks to technological advancements.
With the growing demand comes opportunities particularly for individuals who aim to work in the medical industry without necessarily becoming a doctor, nurse, and the like.
By the way, apart from the fact that medical coding is in-demand, the industry is becoming more attractive among individuals because of the fact that it also offers a lot of work from home opportunities.
In fact, in a survey conducted by the American Academy of Professional Coders, they’ve found that among the total number of survey respondents (which came from different states in the country), 25 percent of them were working remotely.
But the question now is, how does one become a medical coding expert?
Well, there are a few steps to take in order for one to become a full-fledged medical coder – and it actually starts with education. As mentioned earlier, taking up a medical coding course is key to succeeding in this industry.
So, today, we are going to particularly tackle this one. We are going to share with you not just the steps on how to become a medical coder or where to take up a medical coding course, but all the other information that is as important as these.
Specifically, we are going to tackle the following:
- What is medical coding?
- What does a medical coder do?
- How much does a medical coder make?
- How to become a medical coder?
- Where to take up a medical coding course?
WHAT IS MEDICAL CODING?
Before anything else, if you are aiming to land a job in the medical coding industry, it is important that you fully know and understand what the job is all about.
According to the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), medical coding refers to “the transformation of healthcare diagnosis, procedures, medical services, and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes“.
All these diagnoses and procedure codes are taken from medical record documentation like the transcription of a doctor’s notes, radiologic results, as well as laboratory, and the like.
The individuals who do the job are called medical coders or medical coding professionals. They are the ones responsible for ensuring that the codes are correctly applied during the medical billing process, which, according to AAPC, includes “abstracting the information from documentation, assigning the appropriate codes, and creating a claim to be paid by insurance carriers“.
The whole medical coding process happens every time a patient visits a healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will then review the patient’s complaints and medical history, makes an assessment, and then document the visit. Take note that apart from the fact that the documentation serves as the patient’s ongoing record, it also plays a key role in how healthcare providers are paid.
Overall, medical coding professionals play a very important role in the internal workings of most if not all physicians’ offices as well as different medical facilities. They help streamline the reporting of illnesses and are also helpful for tracking diseases and treatments.
Since the medical coding process is vital, to ensure that all data can be transferred efficiently across the country, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regulates all medical codes, which means they’re all uniform among medical facilities nationwide.
Before moving on to the rest of today’s discussion, if you want to know more about medical coding, we thought the video below by Contempo Coding provides is very informative and insightful that every beginner should check out. Click the play button to watch the whole thing:
WHAT DOES A MEDICAL CODER DO?
Now that you already know what medical coding is all about, in this section, we are going to talk about what a medical coder actually does.
This will help you imagine what a day in the life of a medical coder is, and see for yourself if it’s the right route for you career-wise.
In essence a medical coder is a translator of patients’ data to medical codes.
Generally speaking, as part of the medical team, the medical coder is the one who is assigned to review patients’ files and translate all data on that file into universal medical codes, which are required by insurance companies.
As a medical coder, it is your responsibility to ensure that the right codes are used every single time. Not a single mistake is necessary. It has to be right. Everything has to be correct. Otherwise, you won’t be able to properly bill insurance companies.
It is important to note that the type of records and notes vary depending on the clinical setting — whether it is outpatient or facility. In some cases, it may require a certain degree of specialization especially if you are working in larger facilities.
By the way, apart from reviewing documentation of patients’ diagnoses and procedures, medical coders also abstract other important information from the documentation, which includes the physician’s name, dates of procedures, as well as other relevant information.
HOW MUCH DOES A MEDICAL CODER MAKE?
Apart from the fact that the medical coding industry has a lot of opportunities to offer — work-wise, it does also offer very competitive rates.
No wonder why more and more people are becoming interested to join the industry as well.
According to Salary.com, as of November 2020, the average salary of a medical coding expert in the United States is $171,813 a year. The range usually ranges between $29,044 and $314,581.
The rate varies depending on several factors, which include your education, certification, years of experience, additional skills, and if you have specialization as well. The work environment is another factor to consider as well.
HOW TO BECOME A MEDICAL CODER?
In this section, it’s not just about tackling what medical coding course is the most appropriate or the best among the rest. We are going to specifically walk you through the whole process of becoming a professional medical coder.
If you want to become part of the industry, it is first and foremost, important that you know and understands the process of becoming one.
So, with that said, here are the steps on how to become a medical coder:
STEP 1: Enroll In A Medical Coding Course
As we have said earlier, the very foundation of becoming a medical coding professional is taking a medical coding course.
Good thing, there are a lot of institution that offers medical coding programs.
More so, most of them offer remote classes, which is great because it allows more flexibility, and it’s more convenient for students especially these days.
While there are a lot of choices to choose from, in the next section, but we are going to specifically provide you with some of the best in the industry.
STEP 2: Finish The Course
Of course, once you have chosen the program and enrolled in your preferred school, the next step would be to finish it.
Complete the medical coding course you enrolled in as soon as you can. Although most programs are self-paced, which means, you can finish it anytime you want, we highly recommend still opting to finish the course sooner.
The sooner you’re done, the sooner you get to work and start earning.
Do not waste time. Also, think about the money you spent on the course. It would be best to earn it back as early as possible.
STEP 3: Get Trained
Training or work experience is very important when it comes to landing a medical coding job, but more so when you aim for certification.
In most cases, programs already include training. But if the program you’re in does not have one, you can do internships in companies that look for one.
Your training or work experience will certainly help flourish your knowledge about the job. Needless to say, you will get exposed to the realities of the job – what it expects from you, and how much you can potentially earn in the long run.
STEP 4: Get Certified
Once you have completed your medical coding course, the next step towards becoming a full-fledged medical coding expert is by getting certified by certifying organizations.
Certifications play a very important role in your medical coding career. This says a lot about your credentials, your expertise, and your knowledge in doing the job.
As we mentioned earlier, if you want to earn more or if you want a higher-level position, you better be certified.
STEP 5: Get To Work
The last step that you need to become a medical coding specialist is to start looking for work.
Once you’re done with your medical coding course, training, and you already have your certification as a professional medical coder, you can now proceed with the most exciting part – job hunting!
With your credentials in tow, plus the current demand for medical coders, we bet it won’t take long before you land a medical coding job.
WHERE TO TAKE UP A MEDICAL CODING COURSE?
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of options to choose from. However, as promised, today, we are going to focus on five best institutions that offer medical coding courses.
These are the following:
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) was founded in 1928. It is an accreditation organization that sets the bar when it comes to medical recording.
Currently, AHIMA has 52 state associations, and have more than 103,000 members.
Of all the institutions that offer medical coding courses or medical coding programs, we got to say that AHIMA is on top of the list.
As of this writing, AHIMA offers the right certification programs, which include medical records management, professional and facility coding, documentation improvement, professional and facility coding, as well as and privacy and security.
These programs focus on both inpatient and outpatient coding, which is ideal for hospitals and inpatient facilities.
If you aim to become highly competitive in the medical coding field, or you want to make money, AHIMA also offers higher-level certification programs, which include the Registered Health Information Administrator Exam (RHIA) and Registered Health Information Technician Exam (RHIT).
These certification courses, however, are a little more expensive than the ones we earlier mentioned. They cost around $299 each.
American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
We’ve mentioned the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) a few times earlier already, but, what it is really?
Well, launched in 1990, is the world’s largest healthcare training and credentialing organization. It currently has 190,000 members.
AAPC offers a wide variety of medical coding courses at very affordable prices. Needless to say, the AAPC website in itself has an extensive knowledge base that provides various resources to help students succeed in the medical coding field.
With various medical coding courses to choose from, students can get into any level of learning — from certification tests to a full medical coding course of different specializations.
Hutchinson Community College
Another institution where you can take your medical coding course is the Hutchinson Community College.
Founded in 1928, and situated in Hutchinson, Kansas offers a Healthcare Coding Specialist Certificate course.
This online program consists of 45 credit hours. Needless to say, it can be completed in a span of three semesters — very flexible and convenient, right?
What’s even nicer about this program is that students who wish to further advance their studies can do so without wasting what they’ve already had in this course.
Most credits earned in this program are applicable to the institution’s Health Information Management Associate in Applied Science degree.
Now, to get into this program, you have to be a high school graduate with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale for the final six semesters of high school, a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale for a minimum of 12 semester hours of college, or a minimum GED average standard score of 58.
Since it is a community college, tuition is very much affordable. For in-state students, it costs about $116 per credit hour, while it costs $147 per credit hour for out-of-state students.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is part of both the Purdue University system and the Indiana University system.
The institution offers a remote medical coding certification course through Indiana University’s School of Information and Computing.
The medical coding course is entirely online and follows an asynchronous format that offers 28 credit hours.
Once students have completed the program, it makes them eligible to sit for the CCA exam.
Unlike other medical coding programs, the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Coding program has certain prerequisites, which include completion of Anatomy for Health Care Management, Computer Concepts for Health Information, Physiology for Health Care Management, as well as Medical Terminology.
It’s beneficial, though, for those who are planning to earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management at IUPUI, because all credits earned through this program are credited.
When it comes to cost, it differs depending on certain factors like your residency. To give you an idea, though, it would cost around $295 per credit hour.
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati is part of the University System of Ohio. While it offers a fully remote asynchronous program, it is not self-paced.
With UC’s medical coding course, students can earn the certificate in as short as 12 months if they enroll full-time.
Once done with the program, students are eligible to sit either for CCA or CPC national certifications. They may also opt to transition to the Associate Degree Program in Health Information Systems if they want to pursue further studies.
To be able to enroll in the said program, you to at least have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Meanwhile, for tuition fees, Ohio residents can expect to pay around $6,144 per semester with full-term enrollment. Non-residents will definitely pay higher.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MEDICAL CODING COURSE
Medical coding is an in-demand job. In fact, experts project that the industry will grow even more in the years to come. They see no sign of slowing down or worse, breaking point.
What’s nice even more about it is that the medical coding, as well as medical billing industry, are not only providing lots of job opportunities, it particularly offers remote-jobs, which is very important especially these days when people’s health and safety are at risk.
Now, are you excited to start your journey towards becoming a medical coder? If so, remember this:
If you want to get into this industry, you better start with the first yet the most important step – take up a medical coding course today.