Medical coders are professionals who are trained to read and review documents related to the current medical condition of a patient. Coders are often employed with insurance companies and are charged with evaluating information submitted by doctors in regard to diseases, treatments, medications and surgical procedures performed in the process of providing effective medical care. Becoming a medical coder requires the possession of a few essential skills, as well as certain educational credentials. In many countries, a medical coder must also be certified by an accredited agency before working in the medical field.
For anyone who wants to become a medical coder, the best place to begin preparation is during high school. Because the work responsibilities involve working with both alpha and numeric characters, a basic understanding of algebra and basic language is essential. A working knowledge of biology is also extremely helpful. As with many careers today, strong typing skills and the ability to input data into a computer program are extremely important.
Along with taking basic classes in high school, there is also the need to seek some type of higher education credentials from a community college or university. Classes related to healthcare, anatomy, and general office skills are likely to be very helpful to anyone who wants to know how to become a medical coder. Depending on the country and industry standards in the country where the prospective coder resides, obtaining at least an Associate’s degree can help pave the way toward obtaining employment as a medical coder.
Many countries now require that anyone who wants to become a medical coder apply for and obtain certification. In the United States, many jurisdictions recognize credentials obtained through the American Health Management Association or the American Academy of Professional Coders. Other nations also have credentialing processes that are handled through an agency or recognized association. In many instances, the process to become a certified medical coder involves a written or oral exam in addition to educational credentials earned at a university or junior college.
Some insurance companies also offer in-house training programs to help interested employees learn how to become a certified medical coder. The in-house training is usually approved by a recognized agency and is tailored to help the employee comply with local certification requirements.
In terms of how long it takes to become a medical coder, the answer will lie in what type of credentials are required in a given jurisdiction. In general, applicants living in nations requiring a more formal education and credentialing process may invest as much as two to four years preparing for their new career. However, there are areas of the world where it is possible to comply with all requirements and become a medical coder in as little as a few months.