Enter ‘coder’ in a search engine and the general response is usually medical. A medical coder is a demanding occupation and one that is in demand. A coder is needed in all aspects of health care. My overall assumption based on salary range and professional demands, is that medical coders are generally women.
Medical coders must carefully read the notes of doctors and nurses. Coders must understand private payer policies and government regulations to produce accurate coding and billing.
Coders spend their days reviewing medical records to assign codes and make sure health care providers are properly reimbursed for their work.
Consequently, medical coders must be familiar with Current Procedural Terminology (CPT). Imagine, there are over 9,800 CPT codes—one for every type health care service provided—and 14,000 International Classifications of Diseases and generally the coder must carefully access all the information provided. This allows for uniform documentation between medical facilities. Uniform information allows for efficient research and analysis, which government and health agencies use to track health trends more efficiently.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were over 1.2 billion patient visits in the past year. That includes visits to physician offices, hospital outpatient facilities and emergency rooms. If there were just five pieces of coded information per visit, which is an almost unrealistically low estimate, that would be 6 billion individual pieces of information that needs to be transferred every year. In a system loaded with data, medical coding allows for the efficient transfer of huge amounts of information.
Coding allows administrators to look at the prevalence and effectiveness of treatment in their facility. This is especially important to large medical facilities like hospitals.
Clearly, this is detailed oriented work. Training programs can be found in community colleges and online learning centers. To be certified one must pass an examination. Coders earn between $35,000 to $55,000 a year. Certified coders earn 21 percent more than non-certified coders and must remain up-to-date on trends in the field.
When one receives a bill for medical services one can assume that a medical coder has inserted the appropriate codes/charges according the described treatment submitted by a medical team. A conscientious medical coder can save doctors and facilities hundreds and thousands of dollars. Such an individual is a valuable member and deserves as well as earned a salary well beyond $55,000 a year.
Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/docvisit.htm
Explore Health Careers. http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/career/143/medical_coder
“Everything You Need to Get Started in Medical Billing and Coding,” http://www.medicalbillingandcoding.org/learn-more-about-coding/