"I have been researching career ideas online for a couple of months, and over and over again I keep seeing websites recommending I become something called a medical coder. I have never heard of this occupation. What is it, and what are the day to day duties of a coder? Is it a good field with a lot of opportunity? How do I get started, if so? Thank you!"
Asked by Jae from Broken Arrow, OK on July 10, 2013
Answer to "What Is Medical Coding?"
Medical coding is a very popular career choice right now, but there is still a ton of demand. There is considered to be something of a medical crisis in our country right now, with not nearly enough medical staff members available to serve the full population. Medical coders play a critical role in clinics and hospitals, even though it is an auxiliary one. Without medical coders, it would be difficult if not impossible for medical business to be conducted.
It is very complex to manage the day-to-day business of a hospital. Medical conditions and treatments are complicated, which makes communicating about them difficult without a language to summarize and simplify everything. To this end, medical professionals have come up with several different sets of alphanumeric codes. This language allows them to discuss treatments and conditions with one another and with insurance companies in an objective manner. That way everyone is on the same page with everyone else.
With medical codes, more than one doctor can work on a single patient, even in different hospitals or clinics, and still understand exactly what is going on just by reviewing medical history. Medical codes also make it easier to properly charge patients, insurance companies, and the government for services rendered. There will always be arguing about medical bills, but imagine how much more there would be if no one could even agree about what the charges were for.
If you were to become a medical coder, you would learn how to use these codes and translate in and out of them. Medical coding is often spoken of in conjunction with medical billing since medical coding is a necessary process to create medical bills. Medical billing is a separate job title, however, with a different set of responsibilities. Both may interest you, so I recommend you also read our sections about medical billing to figure out which job you might prefer. Medical billing is a lot more customer service oriented, whereas medical coding largely is in the background.
Should you decide to become a medical coder, you will need to pursue a certification in billing at the very minimum. If possible, you should absolutely pursue a degree in the field as well, since you will earn a lot more money if you have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. This will also make you a lot more competitive and more likely to find a job when you are starting out. Make sure the school you choose is accredited, and enjoy embarking on a new and fruitful career!