Getting medical treatment is important for everyone. We make regular visits to the doctor, pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy, and get treatments for all sorts of ailments as a matter of course every day. However, few of us think about all that is involved in that simple doctor’s visit. We rarely ask questions about how our health care providers know what treatments we’ve had, the prescriptions prescribed, or even what services to pay for. The answer is through a data entry system called medical coding.
Medical coding is simply the taking of data related to diagnosis, treatment, procedures, and services provided and converting it into uniform alpha-numeric numbers that can be used in a variety of different settings. Once coded, they can then be used by people in all levels of the healthcare industry to make decisions in relation to a patient’s healthcare and treatment.
How Can Medical Coding be Used?
There are any number of ways these medical codes can be used to manage your health care. One of its primary uses is to file claims with your insurance company but there are plenty of other ways medical coding can serve as a benefit to patients and to society as a whole..
It is through this specialized form of coding that we can be assured of an accurate healthcare diagnosis. In addition, this type of coding can be compiled to keep detailed records of successful treatments and services provided for future reference by researchers and analysts alike. This data can then become an important resource tool for any future research projects.
It is also a more efficient way of keeping track of a person’s medical history. This history serves as a point of reference by business owners, employers, and insurance companies in predicting the type of treatments used and managing their costs.
On a much wider scale, many major organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, and others can compile the data and apply it to a variety of different parameters to predict trends in societal health over a specified period of time.
Medical coding is not just about applying numbers to a list of named products and services. To become a medical coder specialized training is needed. Today, there are more than 170,000 medical coders in the United States alone that are qualified to do this type of data entry. Now, as the field is becoming even more detailed and requiring even more refined skills, it is fast growing into a field of medical study that is in high demand.
Many people get medical coding confused with medical billing and while the skills involved in each at times overlap there are some distinct differences between the two. The primary role of a medical coder is to analyze clinical documents and statements in a patient’s file and assign them codes using a standardized system. Medical billers however, are responsible for following up on patient claims submitted to their health insurance companies for payment processing. At times, the jobs can be exactly the same but the medical coder’s role is usually much more involved. As a coder, they are responsible for checking a patient’s medical record, which could include doctor’s notes, lab tests, studies, and any other resources used to diagnose or treat a patient and translate that information into a standardized form that anyone who deals with that patient can understand and use.
This is no easy task and requires specialized training in order to produce consistent and reliable codes for everyone. To become a coder, one must not only have the knowledge of the thousands of numbers and codes but they must also have a good grasp of human anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. They must be able to keep up to date with current treatment options and services that can be used to treat a patient. Without this knowledge, it would be impossible for them to accurately decipher notes from doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare service providers.
There are six steps involved in becoming a medical coder.
First, is to get the education required to get a coding certificate. This will require you to take several classes usually offered at local trade or technical schools. These schools usually offer at least an Associate’s Degree or better. There are several different types of certificates available so if you are interested in this field it is best to start with looking at the options offered in your area but the basics should include:
1. A Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act Certificate that ensures patient confidentiality
2. Medical Terminology
3. A course on anatomy and physiology
4. A study of pharmacology
5. Diagnostic Coding
6. Procedural Coding
7. Practical application and procedures
8. Related courses on computer software
9. And methodologies related to healthcare reimbursement.
Before you can become fully certified, you will have to accumulate some on-the-job experience at a recognized institution. This can often be done through internship programs your school usually offers. The amount of experience required will depend largely on the testing agency so verify ahead of time how much experience you’ll need to complete before you can schedule the exam.
Once you’ve had the on-the-job experience you can schedule to take the certification test, which is usually done through a national certifying agency. There are several certifying agencies to choose from, each with its own list of requirements.
Finally, you need to register for your exam, pass the exam, and then arrange for continuing education to maintain your certificate.
Getting certified in medical coding is just as important a field as any other in medicine. It requires just as much dedication and effort and those that are able to be certified will find an extremely rewarding career in an area where there is a high demand providing them with years of job security and stability.
In today’s world of modern medicine, things are changing rapidly and as a coder, you will be right at the heart of it all. Anyone looking for a career that goes beyond the basics and can provide them with a means of earning a living and helping the community will find that becoming a medical coder can open up all sorts of doors of opportunity.