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Careers: Understanding what it Takes to Become a Successful Medical Coder

Dec 4th 2013 at 6:53 AM

Ever wondered what medical coders do? They work in the billing offices of hospitals and healthcare facilities, reviewing and processing medical documents. Every medical procedure and patient interaction has a certain code assigned to it, basically a number. This number corresponds to another code for a diagnosis – International Classification of Diseases code. Through the coding process, medical coders help insurance companies track the money they reimburse to hospitals and healthcare facilities. To put it simply, they help prevent errors in payment.

The work

Medical coders play an essential part in the healthcare industry. They organize and manage health information data in both paper and electronic systems. Coders ensure the quality and accuracy of information in medical records. They code and categorize patient information for various databases and for insurance reimbursement purposes. Medical coding can be an extremely satisfying career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a coder is $32,350 per year. This depends on location, the size of the employer and a coder’s experience. Job growth for medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is considered faster than average for all occupations, according to the same source.


If you plan on becoming a successful medical coder, you should know that coding work requires knowledge of many different fields. You must be familiar with anatomy, biology and pharmacology. You should also understand how the internet and computer technology work. Knowledge of information security is a plus. Bachelor and master's degrees are largely available, as well as programs that offer certifications for the field. It’s also helpful to be certified by the American Academy of Professional Coders or the American Health Information Management Association. Keep in mind that the medical coding industry requires constant education, as you must stay current with medical coding updates and regulations.

Skills needed

If you want to offer medical coding services in the future, assess if you have the necessary skills to perform the job well. You must have a great attention to detail, as you will work mostly with numbers. You have to be able to work well with computers. Being a fast learner will work in your favor, as you must get familiar quickly with various coding and billing software. Some interpersonal skills are also welcomed – you will sometimes need to interact with physicians or representatives from insurance companies, in order to ask for additional information. Coders should also possess analytical skills. You will have to understand medical records and diagnoses, and then decide how best to code them in a patient’s medical records.

To sum up

Medical coders serve an important role in the health care industry. While advances in technology and new software greatly facilitate the work of medical coders, qualified and experienced coders will always be in high demand. There is no substitute for a person who can check for errors, keep information organized and point out inconsistencies. Whether you are in the process of choosing your career or looking to change paths, medical coding is a profession worth considering.

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