How to Become a Medical Coder in 3 Simple Steps

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What is a Medical Coder?

Medical coding technician is a really complex job, before we start talking about how to become a medical coder let’s see what your work will be like.

So, what a medical coder is? Every time you visit a physician’s office or a healthcare facility your insurance provider will receive the bill. This bill contains CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes. There are 3 categories of codes: procedures and contemporary medical practices, Clinical Laboratory Services, Emerging technologies services and procedures.

Medical coders’ work is to review medical records and assign the right codes in order to make sure that health care facilities will get recompensed for their services.

The daily duties of a medical coder are:

  • Retrieving patient records for doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Looking through files for preexisting conditions
  • Keeping track of medical records
  • Preparing discharge paperwork
  • Translating diagnosis and medical procedures into medical codes.
  • Researching for the right code
  • Data entry

The most important skill medical coders need to have is attention to detail. With thousands of codes and a number of procedures and treatments a patient could receive it is really easy to make a mistake, so you can understand why attention to detail is such a crucial skill for medical coders.

Computer skills is another skill essential for medical coders. They work with computer systems, entering data all day long, so having good computer skills is really important for this profession.

Lastly analytical skills are also required for this profession. With the medical coding rules being really complex this job require strong analytical skills.

The majority of medical coders work at healthcare facilities like physician offices, hospitals and surgical centers. A small percentage also work at other organizations like: independent coding and billing service and insurance companies.

They work mostly full time business hours. If they work at a healthcare facility that operates 24 hours they may work on shifts, overnight and weekends.

Over the last years there are opportunities for at-home working, although these positions require years of proven working experience.

The average salary of a medical coder is $35,900
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What is a Medical Coder

Becoming a Medical Coder

Step 1: High School Preparation

High School Courses for Medical Coders

Technology and computer classes

As medical coders work with computer systems they should know how to operate them with ease.

Classes like computer literacy and computer fundamentals will help with basic computer functions and getting accustomed working with them.

Typing classes

If your school offers typing classes it is a good idea to take them. Medical coders have great typing skills and if you want to become one it is a good idea to take these classes.

Science classes

As healthcare professionals medical coders need to have a basic understanding of human anatomy and physiology.

When in college you will have classes like physiology and anatomy so it is recommended to take basic science courses like biology and chemistry when in high school and get prepared.

Step 2: Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Coding

Medical Billing & Coding Certificate Program 6 months – 1 year

Medical billing & coding certificate programs are 30 to 40 semester credit hours programs that can be completed either online or on-campus.

The admission requirements for these programs are a high school diploma or a GED.

Curriculum

  • Physician-Based Medical Coding I
  • Medical Billing I
  • Hospital-Based Medical Coding I
  • Physician-Based Medical Coding II
  • Medical Billing II
  • Hospital-Based Medical Coding II
  • Anatomy, Terminology and Healthcare Payers
  • Medical Basics / the Healthcare Claim Cycle
  • Disease Processes and ICD-9-CM Coding
  • Medical Terminology / Healthcare Setting
  • Medical Practice Management Systems and Billing and Coding Applications
  • (HCPCS) – Healthcare Common Procedure Coding Systems, Coding and Surgical Procedures
  • Billing and Coding Applications with Simulations
  • Coding with Simulation

The cost of a medical billing & coding certificate program cost between $4,200 and $19,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Associate’s Degree programs near you.
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Associate of Science in Medical Coding degree program – 2 years

Associate of science in medical coding degree programs are 60 to 90 semester credit hours programs that can be completed mostly on campus.

In order to get accepted to an associate of science in medical coding degree program you will need a high school diploma with a GED of at least 2.2.

Some colleges will require to have completed some prerequisite courses.

Curriculum

General Education Requirements (25 credits)

  • Principles of Ethics
  • Cultural Diversity
  • College Composition
  • Fundamentals of Mathematics
  • College Algebra
  • English Composition I
  • American Government I
  • Introduction to Life Science
  • Student Success
  • Strategies for Decision Making
  • Introduction to Public Speaking
  • Introduction to Computer Applications

Core Courses (35 credits)

  • Introduction to Health Information Management
  • Medical Billing and Reimbursement
  • Pathophysiology for Medical Coding
  • Pharmacology for Medical Coding
  • Medical Coding I
  • Medical Coding II
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Computer Office Application
  • Legal Regulatory Issues in Health Inform
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Computer Applications
  • Medical Finance and Insurance
  • Diseases of the Human Body
  • Intro to Diagnostic & Procedures Coding
  • Coding of Clinical Procedures I
  • Coding of Clinical & Diagnostic Procedures 2
  • Case Studies in Coding of Patients
  • Electronic Medical Billing
  • Medical Coding Practicum I
  • Medical Coding Practicum I

The cost of an Associate of Science in Medical Coding degree program is between $16,000 and $33,300.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Associate’s Degree programs near you.
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Step 3: Get Certified

While certification is voluntary its worth pursuing it.

Having a certification will demonstrate to employers your ability in various medical specialties and settings.

Also according to studies certified medical coders earn 20% more than those that are not certified.

There are 2 organizations issuing certifications: American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).

American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)

American Academy of Professional Coders offers 5 different types of certification.

  • Certified Outpatient Coder
  • Certified Professional Coder
  • Certified Risk Adjustment Coder
  • Certified Inpatient Coder
  • Certified Professional Coder / Payer

(CPC®) Certified Professional Coder

Requirements

  • Associate’s Degree in medical coding
  • 2 years of working experience as a medical coder

Examination

Pass a 150 multiple choice questions test in a 5 hours and 40 minutes exam

Cost: $260 (AAPC Students) – $325 (non- AAPC Students)

(COC™) Certified Outpatient Coding

Requirements

  • Associate’s Degree in medical coding
  • 2 years of working experience as a medical coder

Examination

Pass a 150 multiple choice questions test in a 5 hours and 40 minutes exam

Cost: $260 (AAPC Students) – $325 (non- AAPC Students)

(CIC™) Certified Inpatient Coder

Requirements

Associate’s Degree in medical coding

Examination

Pass a 60 multiple choice questions and 10 fill in the blank inpatients cases test in a 5 hours and 40 minutes exam

Cost: $260 (AAPC Students) – $325 (non- AAPC Students)

 (CRC™) Certified Risk Adjustment Coder

Requirements

  • Associate’s Degree in medical coding.
  • 2 years of working experience in risk adjustment coding or have completed a risk adjustment coding course.

Examination

Pass a 150 multiple choice questions test in a 5 hours and 40 minutes exam

Cost: $260 (AAPC Students) – $325 (non- AAPC Students)

(CPC-P®) Certified Professional Coder – Payer

Requirements

  • Associate’s Degree in medical coding
  • 2 years of working experience in risk adjustment coding or have completed a risk adjustment coding course

Examination

Pass a 150 multiple choice questions test in a 5 hours and 40 minutes exam

Cost: $260 (AAPC Students) – $325 (non- AAPC Students)

American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

American Health Information Management Association offers certification in 3 fields

  • Certified Coding Associate
  • Certified Coding Specialist
  • Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based

 (CCA®) Certified Coding Associate

Requirements

High School Diploma or equivalent

Examination

Pass a 100 multiple choice questions test in a 2 hours exam

Cost: $199 (AHIMA Students) – $299 (non-AHIMA Students)

(CCS®) Certified Coding Specialist

Requirements

Graduated from a coding training program

OR

At least 2 years of working experience in medical coding

OR

CCA certificate and 1 year of working experience in medical coding

OR

Coding certificate from another organization and 1 year of working experience in medical coding

Examination

Pass a 97 multiple choice questions and 8 medical scenarios test in a 4 hours exam

Cost: $299 (AHIMA Students) – $399 (non-AHIMA Students)

(CCS-P®) Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based

Requirements

Graduated from a coding training program

OR

At least 2 years of working experience in medical coding

OR

CCA certificate and 1 year of working experience in medical coding

OR

Coding certificate from another organization and 1 year of working experience in medical coding

Examination

Pass an 88 multiple choice questions and 8 multiple selection test in a 4 hours exam

Cost: $299 (AHIMA Students) – $399 (non-AHIMA Students)

How Long Does it take to Become a Medical Coder and How Much  does it Cost?

Option1: Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 4 months - 1 year$4,200- $19,500
Certification 1 month$199 - $399
Total 5 months - 1 year $4,399 - $19,899

Option 2: Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$16,000 to $33,300
Certification 1 month $199 - $399
Total 2 years & 1 month $16,199 - $33,699
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