Medical Coding Offers Fast Track to Lucrative, Stable Career
A rapidly changing economy is making finding a stable job with prospects of a long-term career with professional and income growth increasingly difficult. The medical industry offers a variety of good-paying jobs, but not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or nurse. Fortunately, there are a variety of support roles in medicine offering excellent job opportunities, including medical coding.
The number of medical coding jobs will grow at a fast rate in the coming decade as a variety of factors spur demand for these professionals. Increasing bureaucratic requirements created by health care legislation like the Affordable Care Act, as well as a push for greater data tracking by health care providers and insurers, are creating demand for trained medical coders. An aging population and greater use of medical care by patients from all walks of life are also contributing to the need for more medical coding professionals.
Compared to other jobs in the medical profession, becoming a medical coder requires only a small investment of time and money in coding and billing courses. For working adults seeking a foot in the door in medicine, coding is a great entry point that can lead to better opportunities. Learning more about medical coding and the career opportunities available in this field will help job seekers decide whether it’s the right choice for them.
What Medical Coders Do
Medical coders play an important role in the health care industry. Coders take information provided by doctors and nurses concerning patient conditions, and translate it into categorized medical codes. These codes ensure a standardized system of recording patient conditions, and the services and procedures provided by health care professionals. This information is submitted to insurers to obtain payment, as insurer’s base their reimbursements on prices attached to various coded items.
Medical codes are also used to monitor a wide variety of health statistics, such as rates of diabetes or outbreaks of diseases. Insurers and government organizations can also use information gleaned from medical coding to track health care provider performance and to detect fraud and abuse.
Medical coding requires knowledge in several aspects of the medical industry, including medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and business. The most recent big shift in the medical coding career field has been the implementation of the ICD-10 code set. The new ICD-10 code set is more detailed than the ICD-9 code set, providing more specific information about patient conditions and treatment. This allows better data tracking by insurers and health care authorities. Implementation of the new codes has required a substantial amount of training by currently employed medical coders and more rigorous training of new coders.
Where Medical Coders Work
Medical coders work in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, mental health facilities, insurance companies, and a variety of other settings. A growing number of coders are working as independent contractors from home, as modern telecommunications technology and practical concerns by employers concerning labor costs has made outsourcing coding work an increasingly attractive option.
The vast majority of coders work in a 9-5 office setting, however, and spend most of their work day abstracting data from patient records. They use coding reference books and websites, as well as other resources, in their work.
Coding is very labor intensive, and there is significant pressure on coders to produce completed work quickly and accurately. Medical coders need to be able to focus on records and computer screens for long periods of time without any impairment to the accuracy of their work.
Medical coding can be the gateway to even better opportunities in the health care industry. Experienced medical coding specialists can become supervisors of coding teams, or become office managers or directors of medical coding. Pursuing further education and training can open up further opportunities for coders in health care administration and management.
Career & Salary Outlook
Medical coding offers career stability and mobility to individuals who enter the field and obtain certification and training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for health information technicians, including medical coders, is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2012 to 2022. That’s much faster than the expected increase in demand for the average of all occupations. Trained medical coders will be able to find work just about anywhere in the country, allowing them great flexibility in where they choose to live.
For a job that requires on average two years or less of training, medical coding offers a pretty robust salary. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the median annual wage for health information technicians in 2012 was $34,160. The top 10 percent of workers in this field earned an average of more than $56,200. Coders who earn advanced coding certification can expect to earn more than coders with entry level skills.
Bottom line: Individuals seeking a job with a reliable future and the opportunity for income growth should consider medical coding, as many indicators point to a solid future in this field.
How to Become a Medical Coder
One of the great things about medical coding is that getting proper training for the job doesn’t require years of school and tons of student debt. Men and women aspiring to careers as medical coders can find entry level work after a relatively short period of training. This is helpful to working adults who wish to transition to a career in medical coding, as long training programs can be difficult for people with job and family responsibilities.
As of now, there are no hard and fast formal education requirements to be a medical coder. In most cases, medical coders will need a postsecondary certificate to secure an entry-level job in medical coding.
According to Innerbody, about 21 percent of health information technicians, which includes medical coders, have some postsecondary training, while about a fifth have an associate’s degree. Typical postsecondary certificate programs include Anatomy/Physiology, and Medical Terminology. Associate’s degree programs to prepare students for careers in medical coding will include classes in health data and data systems, along with other coursework, including coding classes.
Obtaining professional certification helps medical coders greatly in finding employment. American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) training programs provide coders with a recognized standard of basic competence they can show employers, thus boosting their employability and leverage to negotiate higher salaries.
AAPC offers a Certified Professional Coder program, which requires recipients of this certification to demonstrate a high level of knowledge and skill related to the profession, such as knowledge of anatomy and physiology, accurate medical coding, and medical payment protocol. The CPC is the industry standard for coders and is the most sought-after certification in the profession.
The AAPC was founded in 1988 and provides education and certification to medical coders, and also works to improve the professional standard of the coding industry by setting the bar for training, certification, and continuing education, while also providing networking opportunities for coders.
In most cases, men and women seeking careers in medical coding can complete sufficient training for an entry level position within one to two years. Compared to other careers in the medical field, which can take years of training and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to complete, the return on investment of medical coding classes is a great value.
For people seeking quality training in medical coding, LS Coding & Education LLC provides the training necessary to obtain AAPC Coding Certification. The company’s training program will prepare students for certification in 18 months or less, the average being 12 months, allowing them to quickly move into the industry. LS Coding & Education offers live and online courses, allowing students to schedule their training around their busy lives. For a golden opportunity at a new career, visit LS Coding & Education and learn more about this user-friendly, dynamic training program.