Tuesday, April 2, 2024

How to Become a Medical Coder

Must read

  How to Become a Medical Coder – Guideline

Do you want to focus on the healthcare industry’s promising growth, but you don’t want to provide direct patient care?  It’s no surprise that you want to work as a medical coder

Medical coders play a significant role in the health system, assisting in the processing and organization of the massive amounts of medical data generated each day. You’re drawn to the role’s behind-the-scenes nature and believe you’d cherish the daily responsibilities that come with it.

You must now gain a better understanding of the path ahead of you. We’ve compiled a wealth of useful information to help you understand the process and be a medical coder.

How to Become a Medical Coder

5 Step guide to be a Medical Coder

Medical coders are essential members of the healthcare team. When you go to the doctor, the doctor or nurse takes notes about what procedures were performed or what was diagnosed. 

Medical coders take medical records and code them for billing and insurance purposes using their knowledge of 1000s of medical codes, paid claims, and laws and regulations.

To become a successful medical coder, you must pay close attention to detail and have a solid understanding of medical terminology, submitting processes, attend authorizations, and insurance procedures. 

Despite the fact that employers recommend certified coders, you can always begin by shadowing professionals. When you submit your first few claims, your employer may have you supervised.

Without them, the medical field would have no idea how much to charge for each process, and insurance providers would be unable to adequately cover your care. Now that you know a little bit more about the position, keep reading to find out how you can get one. Below we mention the main steps that you want to be the best medical coder.


Step #1 – Education after High School (One to Four Years) 

A certificate program is the easiest path to working in the industry, as most are completed in less than one year. These are concentrated courses of study that cover the fundamentals of pathologies, treatment procedures, terminology, systems in the body, and ICD-10 coding.

 Students will also learn how to use medical office software, the bill for services, and comply with regulatory requirements. These programs’ curricula are designed for students for immediate employment and to start taking official credentialing exams.

While an associate’s degree gets longer to finish than a certificate (approximately 2 years), employers may be more willing to hire candidates with formal degree programs on their job applications. 

Should graduates decide to further their education in the field of healthcare, an associate’s degree can be easily converted to a bachelor’s degree program.

Human resources, health policy, legislative compliance, data analytics, and project management are among the topics covered by graduates.

 Despite the fact that most bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete, medical coders who pursue this path are not only at the top of employers’ hiring lists; they are also more probable to take on more responsibility and earn higher salaries.


Step #2 –  Obtain Preliminary Certification (Six Months plan)

Most of the medical coding education programs prepare graduates for standard credentialing exams, two of which students can take right away. Both are available through AHIMA.

Before taking this exam, AHIMA proposes that candidates provide 6 months of work experience, but it is not required if they have finished an AHIMA-approved and or comprehensive medical coding education course.

The credentialing test consists of 90 to 115 multiple-choice questions designed to assess fundamental skills and competencies, commitment, and potential in both hospital and physician-based settings. 

For AHIMA participants, the application cost is $199, and for non-members, the cost is $299.

The second best option is to become a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). Whereas no relevant experience is required for this certification, it does require at least an associate’s degree in health information management from a CAHIIM-accredited program.


Step #3 – Gain Work Experience (One to Two Years)

Just before new medical coders have obtained their certificate or degree, it is time to enter the office and begin working. To find work, professionals should use the resources available to them at their school and within their peer network. Joining a professional organization, such as AHIMA or the AAPC, can provide access to job opportunities and career preparation resources.

Moreover, obtaining work experience assists young professionals in determining their preferred work setting—in a hospital or a physician practice setting—which will aid them to choose possible further professional credentials.


Step #4 –  Acquire Additional Credentials (1 to 2 Years)

Upon gaining some work experience as a medical coder, additional AHIMA professional credentials like the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) or the Certified Coding Specialist Physician-Based certifications get to be available.

The CCS credential is intended for coders who are proficient in classifying medical data from patients, primarily in a hospital setting. 

It assesses not only terminology, disease processes, and pharmacology knowledge, but also expert knowledge in the ICD-10-CM and CPT/HCPCS coding methods. A medical coder with the CCS-P credential specializes in physician-based settings. The CCS-P exam assesses proficiency.

The corresponding exam for both credentials consists of 115-140 multiple choice questions, as well as eight medical scenarios in which candidates must select from a variety of medical codes. 

All exams demand 2 years of work or 1 year of work experience plus a secondary credential. Work experience requirements are waived for candidates who have already hold an RHIT credential. The application fee for each exam is $299 for AHIMA members and $399 for non-members.


Step #5 –  Continue Your Education (Ongoing)

The qualifications obtained in steps two and four are not permanent. AHIMA requires medical coders to recertify every two years in order to maintain high standards. 

Those with a CCA, CCS, or CCS-P must finish 20 ongoing training units (CEUs) and two annual coding self-reviews (each worth five CEUs) during each recertification cycle.

Medical coders who hold an RHIT credential only need to complete 20 CEUs. Everyone with two AHIMA credentials is also required to complete 30 CEUs every 2 years.

 AHIMA conferences, formal educational programs, teleseminars, delivered presentations, submitted academic work, individual study, and other activities can all count as continuing education. 

A complete list can be found in AHIMA’s qualification guide.


How long does it take to become a medical coder?

Certifications in medical billing and coding can be obtained in as little as 4 months or as long as 15 months. The length of your medical billing training will be determined by your field specialties and the amount of time you can devote to classes each week. Courses can be taken online or in person.


Is medical coding a dying profession?

As a result, technological advancements are displacing workers. Thousands of articles have been written about how artificial intelligence (AI) and robots will soon replace millions of jobs. According to The Institute for the Future, 85 percent of the jobs in 2030 will not exist yet (IFTF)


Is it possible to become a medical coder without going to school?

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to become a medical biller or coder without spending years in school, guys don’t have to overcomplicate there anymore. With a credentialed online training program, it is possible to become a medical biller from home.


Is it possible for me to learn medical coding on my own?

Even though certified medical coders must complete a two- to 4-year degree program, you can learn the fundamentals of medical coding by yourself. You’ll need to have a basic understanding of a few key fundamentals to learn yourself medical coding.

More articles

I am a medical biller, a blogger and have 20 years of experience in medical billing, medical billing management, and medical assistant. My background includes positions as a clinical medical assistant, medical records technician, medical office manager, biller, and coder. I am certified by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) as a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and by the Practice Management Institute (PMI) as a Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM). As an office manager/biller/coder, I was a member of the Michigan Medical Group Managers, Michigan Medical Billers Association. I also served as a committee member of the Michigan Osteopathic Association of Practice Managers Education Committee.

Latest article