Medical coding professionals are an integral piece of the health care system. As more and more reliance is placed on the use of technology and digital records in health care, and as the demand for health care continues to rise, the medical coding career will also continue to grow in demand.
Medical Coding Overview
Using knowledge in medical terminology and business operations, medical coders document patient records using identified procedures and diagnoses. After reading through and extracting the information in order to assign a code, the medical coder enters the code into the computer.
In some cases, the medical coding professional will concentrate on one specific area of medicine, such as pediatrics, oncology, obstetrics, or cardiology. This is likely to occur in a large hospital or physician’s group office setting. Many coders will be required to have general knowledge of all areas of coding in order to handle any possible diagnosis or procedure.
Medical coders might work in large, urban hospitals, rural outpatient treatment centers, or suburban physician’s offices. Sometimes, the type of workplace is important when determining which education to pursue.
Certificate Programs in Medical Coding
Many certificate programs in medical coding can be found throughout the United States. The majority of these programs are offered through community colleges, and most of these programs enable a student to utilize credits earned during completion to be transferred to other universities for furthering an education.
The certificate is often the first step a future medical coder decides to take when beginning to complete the education requirements for medical coding. Some of the courses certificate students complete include physician-based medical coding, hospital-based medical coding, medical terminology, chart auditing, medical coding and billing software, and case studies in medical coding.
Associate Degree Programs in Medical Coding
While a certificate program requires completion of only 16 to 18 credits on average, the associate’s degree also include courses in general education. Many associate degree programs in medical coding can be divided into two categories for future professionals to begin specializing in one area. For example, some institutions include both a physician’s track and a hospital track.
Typical course in either of these tracks are similar, with students completing elective courses in one area or the other. Common course work for both concentrations includes coding anatomy and physiology. coding compliance, ethics in coding, diagnostic coding, procedural coding, and evaluation and management.
In addition to certificate programs offered through colleges and vocational programs, there are also a number of certificates for medical coders to obtain in order to both enter into the field after graduation or for exemplifying skill and knowledge in order to advance within the field.
For many organizations an companies, the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) designation is required in order to work as a coding specialist and to advance into leadership roles and management. Additionally, the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and the Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based designation (CC-P) are designations that improve opportunities and employment consideration.
Additional Education for Advancement
Medical coding professionals might also choose to move on and advance within the field. Entry level positions in medical coding are often helpful for gaining skills for future careers in health care administration, health information management, and medical office management. After earning a certificate or associate’s degree in medical coding, professionals often have a number of the skills needed to continue on to complete a bachelor’s degree in one of these areas of the industry.
Course work in these programs includes similar classes to the certificate and associate’s degree programs in medical coding. In addition, students in these programs will complete courses such as medical law and ethics, principles of managed care, medical record management, medical information technology, and health services administration.
The completion of a training program in medical coding, whether at the certificate or associate’s degree level, prepares graduates for work in an in-demand, fast-paced, interesting and rewarding career field. With the choice to continue a career in medical coding or advance a certificate or associate’s degree with further education, medical coding professionals have a number of options and opportunities.
Pursuing a degree in the medical field allows for a diverse career with vast opportunity. A medical coding certificate acknowledges that you are educated in coding procedures and have completed the proper training to work with insurance claims. Since medical coders are responsible for analyzing, reviewing and processing medical claims for reimbursement, this isn’t a position or career that can be learned quickly. Extensive training regarding billing laws, medical terminology and knowledge of CPT and ICD-9 codes is required to fulfill job duties. Being educated with such a diverse range of diagnosis codes allows you to function as a professional within a clinical setting generating insurance bills and invoices for clients and insurance companies. All medical coders must abide by strict guidelines set forth by insurance companies and company policies. Their work is cross-checked and audited by a supervisor or outside source. A medical coding certificate also allows you to work in multiple offices that may have different roles and specialties. Some medical coders work as independent contractors, filling in for other employees or assisting with overflows of work.
Choosing to complete a medical coding certificate program allows you to refine your abilities and expand your knowledge in the field. Investigating available certificate options and researching the differences in certificate programs ensures participants get the right training and skills which appeal to potential employers. A medical coding certificate allows you to showcase your expertise not only on your resume but when utilize your knowledge and skills in the workplace.
Individuals interested in pursuing a medical coding certificate must be cautious about where the certificate and the education required to obtain it are pursued. Many programs offer medical coding certificates but not all programs are the same. Only choosing schools which offer courses backed and endorsed by the American Academy of Professional Coders or AAPC ensures the quality education necessary to establish the educational foundation needed for building a successful career. Selecting an AAPC certified program allows you to specialize your training or earn a specific credential in particular area. Since there are medical coding certificates that are recognized by professional and government agencies such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS, taking the time to thoroughly research potential programs ensures you find the best one to not only suit your training needs but also align your educational experience with your career aspirations.
Here is a list of the different Medical Coding Certificate programs available:
CPC Certified Professional Coder
The CPC Certified Professional Coder is one of the most popular of medical coding certifications. This designation allows participants to utilize all of the fundamentals of coding that are generally used in a physician or outpatient medical office. The correct application of codes is essential for billing and proper filing in the patient’s permanent medical file. Enrollees will learn all of the basics of coding including HCPCS procedure and supply codes, as well as ICD-9-CM codes that correspond with patient diagnoses and procedures.
CPC-P Certified Professional Coder-Payer
With this payer coder credential, students will be able to use the education and experience of the CPC-P medical coding certificate to apply for positions in accounts payable. This credential allows you to perform coding duties and overview and easily process medical bills and claims for the return of payment. You may find positions in:
Depending on the facility you work at, you’ll be able to use your education to demonstrate advanced aptitude and reimbursement methods to fulfill your job duties. You will also showcase your knowledge of medical coding guidelines.
CPC-H Outpatient Hospital
This credential and code certification allows participants to gain knowledge of the rules and regulations of coding as pertaining to a hospital or outpatient setting. You will easily understand how reimbursement works and be up to par on all of the compliance issues related to outpatient and hospital billing systems. Enrollees will learn more in-depth knowledge of medical terminology, plus human anatomy and physiology. Exploring the ICD-9-CM codes more in depth will allow you to take your expertise to anesthesia, pathology, radiology and surgical services units within a clinic or hospital.
Specialty Medical Coding Certificate
Specializing your medical coding certificate allows you to expand your resume and grow within your career. This is an especially important factor in the course of your entire medical coding career. Because of the ever-changing diagnosis codes and billing practices, advancing technologies, and evolving relations within insurance companies, governmental organizations (including Medicare and Medicaid), and medical systems, medical coding professionals are required to participate in continuing education programs to stay informed of changes in the field.
Several specialty certificate programs allow participants to gain advanced knowledge and expertise in coding, especially in particular medical settings. These are stand-alone credentials that you can add to validate your knowledge in coding and billing. CPT, HCPCS and ICD-9-CM applications are reviewed during the study and testing process. From there, you can decide on your specialty or area of concentration such as:
• Pain Management
• Emergency Department
• General Surgery
• Internal Medicine
• Surgical Foot & Ankle
Your medical coding certificate does not confine you to work in one location pertaining to county or state. You can use your certificate in any work setting, including hospital, physician office or a medical clinic.