What is a Medical Coder?
A medical coder – or else known as a medical coding specialist, medical record or even health information technician – is a professional that has to go through detailed information about the patients’ injuries, illnesses or diseases. These experts are also required to go through records about procedures from any medical record that is known to be and any documents that are mainly provided by physicians and other healthcare specialists.
Then they will assign codes by using a universal or official coding system for the information. These codes that are medical are then used where needed to reimburse claims by physicians and hospitals for the insurance purpose.
Job Description of a Medical Coder
The work of a medical coder is delivered by fulfilling many tasks and daily activities that will also involve working with other physicians and hospital team members. The job of these professionals is to organize health information and maintain it. They will have to ensure the information accuracy, accessibility as well as quality and security in the electronic and paper system.
Among other duties, one of the most critical activities is to categorize any of the patient information based on a code. This code is taken and implemented by using different code classification systems. These codes will vary for the database, registries, and medical treatments as well as for insurance reimbursements. These professionals will maintain the patient medical histories as well as the treatment ones.
The responsibilities of medical coders involve duties such as reviewing the patient’s records, recording the data into an electronic system. Medical coders are also required to manage the clinical coding of the databases as well as the registries, track the results of the patients. It is also necessary to use classification software to distribute in an appropriate manner the clinical codes for the reimbursement and data analysis.
Their duties will also involve protecting the confidentiality of the health information and treatment that were provided. They are responsible as well to assign codes such as ICD-9 or else known as the International Classification of Diseases and CPT-4 or else known as the Current Procedural Terminology to the health records. These health records are based on the procedures types and confirm the DRG assignments. These codes that were reminded earlier are codes used for medical diagnoses. A medical coder will also transfer health information to other healthcare provider services.
How to Become a Medical Coder?
If your purpose is becoming a medical coder, then the first step is to graduate high school and have the diploma or the GED. The diploma will help you then enroll in the next step that is to be followed further. This entry-level education should mainly consist of classes that will help you along the way in building a career as a medical coder. At this level that is the high school level make sure that you follow classes that have bases in health, computer science, biology, typing, chemistry and of course math.
With the high school diploma obtained then you should focus on completing an accredited Associate’s degree program of two years in health information technology or anything that is similar. You can also finish a post-secondary certificate. The years of experience are necessary so try to gain at least two years of experience in medical coding, or records in ICD coding systems and other.
Being in an Associate’s degree program will lead you to focus on a subject such as medical terminology, anatomy, classification and coding systems. You will also study physiology, healthcare statistics, computer systems, management, reimbursement and other. Successfully completing an accredited health information technology program, you’ll be eligible for a state board exam.
There are certain organizations that will offer certificates for medical coders when they complete an exam such as the Certified Professional Coder exam that is conducted by the AAPC. If you want to obtain certification, then you should make sure that you gain enough experience in the medical coding. You can obtain certifications such as CTR else known as the Certified Tumor Registrar or the RHIT known as the Registered Health Information Technician.
Then if you want to advance in this field, you should obtain a coding credential in a specialized field. In this area of coding there are two organizations that usually offer credentials. One is the BMSC else known as the Board of Medical Specialty Coding, and the other is the PAHCS else known as the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists. Before you can take the exam for the credential you might have to enroll in their organization.
In order to maintain your credential, you might have to go through continuous education classes that are offered in your area. Make sure that you have current knowledge of the current technology since keeping medical records in an electronic format is beginning to be more widespread. The EHR else known as the Electronic Health Records have their own software this assuming that you’ll need to learn to use this type of software.
You might also need to have some work experience developed in the area of medical coding so that you may maintain your credential. If that is possible try to pursue if there are, any of the job training that is offered at your working site. When necessary, go through re-certification to keep any of the credentials that you’ve earned.
Work Environment and Schedule
A medical coder can be found in every of the health care facilities. To this you can add working site in a surgery center, nursing homes, doctor’s office, clinic, outpatient care centers, and hospitals as well in the health care systems. Some of the medical coders with a lot of experience can work from home being hired by an employer or as a contract worker.
The job of coding is a hard work that is very accurate and detail oriented work. A medical coder must review a patient chart very carefully in order to learn the diagnosis as well as itemize every service provided. If by mistake a service is overlooked then the provider will not receive any payment for it. In other circumstances if the medical coder has chosen a wrong code, then the provider will have to return any payment that was in excess or face for over-billing legal charges.
The work of a medical coder tends to be on a full-time basis, this including a number of at least 40 hours per week. Your working schedule will depend mainly based on the type of facility in which you are. Many of the medical coders work on a normal shift from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.. If you have a working setting that is at a hospital or somewhere else, then you can choose between working days, evenings and even night shifts.
Pros and Cons of Being a Medical Coder
Choosing a career as a medical coder can be something that you’re first have to be good at, and it has to be something that you like to do. Due to the number of demanding these professionals are becoming more and more a valuable asset in a health care facility and other industries.
There are plenty of chances for advancement, and as well plenty of specialties where you can choose from. As a medical coder, you will have the amazing opportunity to work from home – embracing the environment of your house. However, there are certain cons that will make you think about this field.
For instance being a medical coder can also assume a schedule that is not always comprised of 40 hours per week. Their schedule will often include overtime periods of work, night shifts, weekends, and even working hours on weekends.
Being hired in this field will assume as well a certification that mainly involves additional costs. Working as a medical coder can involve a good amount of time spend in front of a computer, that in time could lead to serious back pains as well as wrist injuries. On a daily basis, you might have to deal with some constant interruption such as answering phone calls, appointments as well as scheduling.
Another con will be having a quite lower average salary in an entry level position that could reach at $24,010 per year or even less than this amount. However through specialization, years of experience and a higher educational background you can increase your earnings gradually.
Medical Coder job growth
The estimated growth for medical coders is projected at a fast and great rate of 21%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The future outlook for this career is bright since there are plenty of positions and job openings. The main reason for this increase is the demanding, followed by the nature itself of the job. Many hospitals are in need for the services of these professionals and not only since their work is a vital part in the system of insurance payments and not only.
Medical Coder Salary
A medical coder has an average estimated salary in the United States that usually reaches at $43,694 per year. According to the upper or lower percentage of the jobs in this field the annual salary has its rates. For instance, the upper salaries that can be found in this field usually reach about $53,432 per year and even more according to several factors. On the other hand, the lower registered salary in this career was estimated at $21,242 per year and even less.
One of the most general factors that affect the economic flux of the salaries is the type of work setting. For instance working at a home healthcare service will lead you as a medical coder to an average hourly rate estimated at $17.06 per hour and an annual income of about $35,442 per year. At the same time, those who are working at surgical hospitals can expect to an hourly rate that reaches at about $18.69 per hour and a yearly income estimated at $38,862 per year.
The medical coding salaries will increase or decrease according to the position in which one of these professionals is working and according to the industry. Those that found work at a pharmaceutical facility or a medicine manufacturing facility can expect to an income that usually reaches about $66,063 per year. Instead, those who are employed at outpatient care centers will take home a yearly income of about $34,892 per year.
The salary of a medical coder is seen as one of the highest salaries in the field of healthcare administration. The annual salary for these professionals is estimated at $36,772 per year with an average hourly rate estimated at $17.69 per hour. In this field, the starting hourly rate has an estimated average that ranges between $10.98 and $23.08 per hour. In time, this will gradually increase from $8.24 per hour and up to $35.59 per hour.
A medical coder can expect to a yearly bonus that usually reaches about $1,017 per year and to a profit sharing estimated to range from $350.02 and up to $4,876 per year. This will lead in the end to a total annual payment estimated to range from $23,126 and up to $50,787 per year.
Another factor that affects the salaries is the years of experience that one has gained. For instance, those medical coders that have less than one year of experience at their working site will take home an income that varies from $26,178 per year and up to $49,835 per year. Those who have a working length comprised between 1 year and four years of experience at work can expect to an income that is comprised between $25,027 and up to $45,928 per year.
A medical coder that has a working experience between 10 and 19 years can expect to earn an average salary estimated between $29,994 per year and up to $63,617 per year. At the same time, those with more than 20 years of experience in the field can expect to an income that ranges between $30,967 per year and up to $63,646 per year.
In the United States, the best paying states for medical coders are found in California, Texas, Connecticut, and Michigan and other. In California, the income that is earned these professionals reaches at about $50,152 per year while in Texas a medical coder can expect to an income of about $40,142 per year. Connecticut will offer a salary estimated at $46,652 per year while in Michigan you can expect to a salary that reaches about $46,521 per year.
For those medical coders that have a certificate – they can expect a starting hourly rate estimated at an amount from $11.68 per hour and up to $21.97 per hour. In time, this will increase significantly – anywhere from $15.73 per hour and up to $32.89 per hour.
A starting medical coder, who has certification, can expect to an average salary that ranges from $24,657 per year and up to $40,548 per year. Also, those who have experience in this field and already have a certification can expect to earn an income that ranges from $26,965 per year and up to $86,128 per year. The yearly bonus that is granted for a certified medical coder reaches up to $1,547 per year. Such bonuses (or extra payments) eventually lead to a total annual payment estimated to range between $24,807 per year and up to $50,446 per year.
Salary of a Medical Coder in 2015
The salary for a medical coder in 2015 is influenced by several important factors such as the location, the working site, the years of experience as well as the type of certifications that are earned. For instance when it comes to the geographical location the salaries of medical coders is influenced by the living costs and the number of demanding for these experts.
The people who are working in this field in the West and Northeast coast of the US according to each state can expect to different wages. In general, their income varies from $36,010 per year and up to $52,010 per year. The most attractive payments are to be found in states such as New Jersey, California, New Hampshire and many more.
Still there are to be found some exceptions. There are some regions that will pay a higher income. These regions are the ones that have a scarce population and with a lower number of medical coders (experts who are registered). There are also states in which the number of living costs is very small compared with other. These states will register a living standard lower than the national average granting an income estimated to be between $22,510 and only up to $32,010 per year. You can find these incomes in states such as Alabama, Louisiana and other.
Medical Coder Salary in 2016
In the US, for the year 2016, the median average hourly wage for someone working as a medical coder is estimated to get around $16.02 per hour, according to the salary data information provided by PayScale. The starting hourly wage in this profession is estimated from $11.93 per hour and up to $23.51 per hour.
The median income for medical coders has an average that reaches at $38,464 per year, with a starting point that goes from $25,975 per year and up to $53,253 per year. The granted bonuses tend to reach at $1,754 while the profit sharing is comprised from $125.02 and up to $4,726.
The main skills that affect and influence the income of a medical coder are medicine, surgery, surgical coding, collections and a few other as well. The factors that impact the earnings in this field are the geographical location factor, followed by the type of employment as well as the years of experience. The vast majority of those working as medical coders after the surveys were female rather than males.
According to the years of experience in the field, the incomes have a continuous increase. For instance, an entry level medical coder, with less than five years of working experience in the field can expect to earn around $33,010 per year, while one individual with 5 and up to 10 years of practice can expect to take home around $39,010 per year.
An experienced medical coder, with 10 and up to 20 years of working experience can expect to earn around $41,010 per year, while those who are considered as veterans in this branch with more than 20 years of experience and with plenty of job activity will gain around $44,010 per year.
The national average income for medical coders, in the United States, reaches at $35,032 per year. Great job locations with incomes that go above the national average can be encountered in regions such as New York, with earnings that go around $45,100 per year, followed by Minneapolis, where these professionals earn on average around $39,969 per year and other as well. On the other side, below the national average incomes are found in Orlando, where the granted salaries have an average of $33,042 per year.
According to Indeed.com, the median earnings for medical coders are estimated to reach at $24,010 per year. These incomes vary as well greatly when compared with other average earnings for jobs with related titles. For instance, working as a Surgical Coder, the average income is estimated to reach at $43,005 per year while working as a Medical Coder Inpatient, the earnings are estimated at $61,005 per year.
Medical Coder Salary in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom
- In Canada, the salary of a medical coder depends upon several factors such as the field of expertise and the field in which one of these professionals choose to specialize. The median salary reaches at about C$45,010 per year while the medical coder that has a medical billing specialization can easily expect to an average salary that reaches about C$60,005 per year and even more.
- In Australia, the median yearly salary for a medical coder can have an average estimated at AU$52,237 per year. The annual salary for these professionals is estimated to range from AU$47,426 per year and up to AU$70,467 per year. The starting hourly rate for a medical coder can be estimated to have an average that ranges from AU$13.02 per hour and up to AU$19.32 per hour. In time, this hourly wage is expected to increase gradually from AU$17.76 and up to AU$30.02. The annual profit sharing that is granted in Australia for someone working in this field ranges from AU$351 and up to AU$4,876 per year. The added profit sharing will lead to a total annual payment that is comprised from AU$27,936 per year and up to AU$42,259 per year.
- In the UK, the median expected salary for a medical coder reaches at about £25,786 per year while the hourly wage has an estimated average that reaches about £12.86 per hour. The factor that is more decisive in this field is the age. According to the age of an individual, the salary can be expected to increase gradually. Therefore, those who are in their 20s will take home an income estimated to reach at about £19,343 per year while those in their 30s can expect to an income that reaches at about £25,276 per year. Those professionals who are in their 40s or 50s can easily expect to a salary of about £29,918 per year.
Conclusion on Medical Coder Salary
The medical coder salary will vary mainly based on several influential factors that affect the points of increase and decrease in incomes. According to some surveys, the hourly wage that is in the US reaches at about $15.56 per hour, while the yearly salary is estimated at $32,352 per year.
- First Published Date: 7 July, 2015
- Last Updated Date: 9 November, 2016