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What is CPT Coding?

By J. Beam
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) coding is a standard, universal code that is applied to medical procedures and services for the purpose of patient records. CPT was developed by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1966, and the codes are uniform codes that translate the same for doctors, hospitals, patients, insurance companies, and other third parties. Knowledge of CPT coding is often required of medical office personnel.

CPT coding is like a language for those who work in the medical field. Each code is a string of numbers, usually five, that indicate a service or procedure. The AMA approves all codes and updates them annually. Coding is an intricate and very specific procedure; for example, there are as many as 13 different CPT codes for the influenza vaccine, each specific to the type of vaccine and its administration.

Individuals with knowledge of CPT coding may be eligible to work in a doctor’s office or other medical setting. Coders can earn coding credentials to become certified in this field. Many schools offer training in health information management that includes training in medical coding. As the demands for individuals highly trained in health information management grow, other additional areas are becoming essential for obtaining a job in the medical information management field.

Knowledge of CPT coding can be put to use in medical offices — both in records and billing, hospital records departments, and health insurance companies. Being able to differentiate between specific coding requirements for different insurance providers is one area in which CPT coders are able to help both patients and doctors. Without the proper coding, many insurance claims are denied.

The US Department of Labor anticipates that careers in medical information technology, including CPT coding, are expected to grow in the future. This makes the field one of the fastest growing job markets. The salary for an coder or reimbursement specialist varies with experience, certification and training, and location.

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Discussion Comments
By anon337948 — On Jun 09, 2013

If I were a physician and also had medical coding certification, is there a code that I could use to charge a fee for my service as a coder as well as a physician?

By christym — On Nov 13, 2010

@medicchristy: Some people think they are interchangeable; however, they are in fact all separate functions. All of these medical professions are the most sought after healthcare information fields right now and will not change.

Medical coders and billers submit claims to insurance companies, in order for their employer’s to receive payment.

Medical Transcriptionist transcribes medical records and doctor notes. Doctors usually talk into a recorder to make their work much faster, rather than writing everything down. The transcriptionist will listen to their recording using a Dictaphone and turn the doctor’s words into a medical document.

By medicchristy — On Nov 13, 2010

What is the difference in Medical Coding and Billing and Medical Transcription?

By wesley91 — On Nov 13, 2010

@momothree: Some hospital and doctor offices do not require you to have CPT Coding Training. In order to make the most money you would want to obtain a certification. The more knowledge you have it will help you advance more quickly and become a valuable asset to your employer.

By momothree — On Nov 13, 2010

Do you have to have CPT Coding Training, in order to work in the medical field?

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