The health care information industry is growing more and more everyday, and now is the perfect time to think about joining the field. One great way of becoming part of it is by becoming a medical coder. Medical coders are essential in processing medical claims so that physicians and hospitals can properly get reimbursed by private and public medical insurance companies.
They are called "coders" because they assign codes to different medical procedures conducted by the doctors. They then use computers and specialized software to input and organize these pieces of information. Medical coders are essential in controlling the costs of health care providers and hospitals and in preventing fraudulent claims.
To become a medical coder, you must have a high school diploma at the minimum. It is advisable to get certification, as this is required by most employers. Going through an accredited medical coding program is the first step to achieving this. Certain organizations provide certification exams as well as materials that would help with the certification. The American Health Information Management Association and the American Academy of Professional Coders are two such institutions. You can check their websites for more information.
Choose a program that will help you get into a practicum or an internship program afterwards. The internship will give you invaluable experience, which most employers watch out for in hiring medical coders. If your program does not offer an internship, then scout the health institutions in your area and find out if they have any volunteer programs you could join.
Start familiarizing yourself with the major coding systems in the medical information industry. You can visit the websites of the American Medical Association or the World Health Organization to start learning about these coding systems. You must also have a working knowledge of medical terminology, so you won't confuse the different medical procedures with one another.
If you're not computer-literate, then you should start learning about computers and software. Consult message boards on the Internet which tackle issues on medical coding, this will help you remain updated on current developments in the field.
Be an active member of medical coding associations. Networking will clue you in on available jobs. If you have time to spare while studying, get a part-time job at a doctor's office or a local clinic, so you'll become acquainted with medical processes. You can even use this as a stepping-stone later on, when you're already a certified medical coder.
When choosing where to apply, you might want to consider the size of the facility. The larger the hospital or institution, the less numerous your duties might be - it could be confined strictly to assigning codes to procedures and encoding the information in a computer. Smaller institutions might require you to deal with the patients themselves, the doctors and the insurance companies. You must necessarily have good interpersonal skills for this.
Expect to take a certain number of continuing education units every year in medical coding, as most employers will require this. Do your best as a medical coder; this could be a way for you to get promoted to higher positions someday in the medical field.