A certified medical coder is a medical administration professional who takes the reports provided by medical transcriptionists and translates them into a numerical code. This code is universal, and allows insurance companies to match medical services to their own equivalent. Coding is essential to submitting health insurance claims and no insurance company will issue payment without the proper coding. All certified medical coders must complete coding training, and then pass a certification test before beginning work.
Becoming a certified medical coder starts with a good understanding of medical terms. Prospective coders will have several choices to obtain the training they need. They may take a college program to learn coding, or undergo training in a vocational program or technical school. There are also some self-taught online courses that offer the medical knowledge necessary to be successful in this field.
The next step is the actual certification to work as a medical coder. Nearly every employer requires that medical coders be certified. This is to assure that the coder has the skills needed to get the job done. The certification exam is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Once the coder has passed the exam, he or she is then officially certified, and can seek employment.
There are many different job opportunities for a certified medical coder. They range from small individual medical practices to large busy hospitals. Virtually every medical provider needs to have a medical coder on staff. There are even some coders that work from home. The number of coders on staff depends on the size of the institution. An average sized hospital may need as many as fifty coders on staff.
A medical coder’s work crosses over to other medical administrative professionals. For example, medical transcriptionists review the medical provider’s notes and generate a report. Those reports are then given to the coders to determine specific treatment and diagnostic codes. In fact, many transcriptionists also undergo the training to get a job as a certified medical coder. Their medical backgrounds make them excellent candidates, and filling two positions with one staffer makes the whole process run more efficiently.
The medical billing professional is another position that often crosses over to coding. The codes provided by the medical coders are used on the insurance claims forms and billing statements. The medical biller and certified medical coder often are the same position in smaller medical establishments. One employee with all of these skills is usually more valuable than several individual ones.