What Is Medical Coder?

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Medical Coders are responsible for assigning codes for each diagnosis and procedure performed by a medical professional. Relying on their knowledge of disease processes, coders use classified software systems to assign a patient to a diagnosed-related group (DGR). The DGR is used to determine the amount of money that a hospital will be reimbursed by an insurance program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. The average salary for a medical coder is $46,000 per year.

Responsibilities

  • After a patient visits with a doctor, her medical history is recorded. This information includes what diagnosis and what procedures were performed. Medical coders then record an assigned numerical code to each diagnosis and procedure, and use a software program to determine the amount of money a hospital or clinic is going to be reimbursed by an insurance company. There are a variety of coding software programs used to determine payment and classify patients.

Characteristics

  • Working as a medical coder allows individuals to work in the medical field without working or interacting with patients. Individuals that are interested in this profession need to be organized, detail oriented and comfortable working with large amounts of paper work. It's important for prospective medical coders to realize the importance of accuracy in this profession as hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars can be involved in each transaction.

Regulations

  • Because medical records are private and fall under the HIPAA privacy rules, it's essential that all medical coders abide by the ethical policies and standards set by the hospital or clinic. Medical coders need to ensure that all medical codes meet insurance, legal and federal regulations so that statements can be accurate and paid on time.

Education

  • Becoming a medical coder requires education and training from a community college. The curriculum in this field includes classes in anatomy, medical terminology, physiology, legal aspects of health, computer science, coding, statistics and quality improvement methods. Most community colleges offer accommodating schedules, which includes full-time, part-time and online distance learning classes.

Certification

  • Once a prospective medical coder completes his education, employers prefer to hire candidates who have become certified. To become certified, individuals must pass a written exam given by the American Health Information Management Association. Certified medical coders prove to potential employers that they have the necessary knowledge and skill to succeed in this profession.

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