Medical coders are trained health information and medical records professionals, skilled in classifying medical data from patient records. These coding specialists review patients’ records and assign a numeric code to each diagnosis and procedure using classification systems software. The classification system determines the amount for which healthcare providers will be reimbursed if the patient is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or other insurance programs using the system. Coders may use several coding systems, such as those required for hospitals, ambulatory settings, physician officers, or long-term care. Medical coders must be familiar with electronic health records (EHR), EHR computer software, and maintaining EHR security.
- Physician offices
- Long-term care facilities
- Other healthcare facilities
Medical coders may work in healthcare facililities, in offsite billing offices, or even from home. This is one of the few health-related occupations in which there is no direct hands-on patient contact.
Medical coders typically work a 5-day, 40-hour week, although some overtime may be required or available. Part-time work may also be available. In healthcare facilities that are open round-the-clock, coders may work day, evening or night shifts.
Employment of medical coders is expected to increase 20 percent through the year 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will result from the increase in the number of medical tests and procedures, especially with the expanding elderly population. Coders who demonstrate a strong understanding of classification systems and computer software will be in particularly high demand.
- Good reading and numeric skills
- Good oral and written communication skills
- Knowledge of medical terminology, disease processes and pharmacology
- Good eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
- Ability to work quickly and accurately following specific procedures
- Ability to proofread numbers and see important details in written materials
- Proficiency with computer software and technology
Students may prepare to enter the health information field with a diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Those receiving a diploma will be prepared to work in entry-level positions as coding technicians in a variety of healthcare settings. Continuing education is important in this occupation.
The American Health Information Management Association offers two certification exams for coders: the Certified Coding Specialist and Physician Based Coding Specialist. Potential candidates must possess a high school diploma. It is also recommended that an individual have at least 3 years of on-the-job coding experience and coding education from colleges or seminars.
Programs in Nebraska
- Central Community College – Hastings (Diploma)
- Clarkson College – Omaha (Certificate, Associate, Bachelor’s)
- Metropolitan Community College – Omaha (Certificate, Associate)
- Northeast Community College – Norfolk (Diploma)
- Southeast Community College – Lincoln (Diploma)
- Western Nebraska Community College – Scottsbluff, Alliance, Sidney (Diploma)
Related / Links
Other careers with similar responsibilities:
For information on careers in coding and credentialing:
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
- American Academy of Professional Coders
- Nebraska Health Information Managements Association
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, on the Internet at www.bls.gov