coding is a process by which medical diagnoses and procedures are changed into
universal medical codes. The federal government's new legislation mandates that
all healthcare industries adhere to a standardized medical coding system. Having
accurately coded medical data facilitates the electronic storage of patient
records, reimbursement of medical insurance claims, assessment of healthcare
standards, administrative and research activities.
and Responsibilities of Medical Coding School Graduates
coders are skilled professionals trained in classifying medical data from
Graduates of medical
coding schools can expect to perform a range of tasks such as:
classification codes based on clinical information
disease-related groupings for billing purposes
patients by recording relevant details, such as personal particulars and
coding and billing of patient insurance claims
updating patient information registries
Analyzing data to
for quality-improvement purposes, research, cost control, and legal use
After Medical Coding School
Students of medical coding schools can opt to work in:
Schools Training & Certification
Prospective medical coders can obtain medical coding training through a few
avenues. One way to garner medical coding training is to attend a college or
university, which grants associate and bachelor's degrees in health information
management. There are over 200 such institutions in the United States. A medical
training course in one of these educational institutions typically offers 2- and
4-year programs, depending on the type of degree.
Another option is to enroll in a medical coding certificate program. Such
programs are offered by a variety of healthcare organizations, private
companies, and academic institutions such as community colleges. Some of the
courses taught include basic anatomy and physiology, medical terminology,
ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases) coding and clinical data
The third alternative is an online medical training course. Various
organizations and educational institutions teach the basics of medical record
coding through a combination of interactive web-based lessons and textbook
learning. Such programs offer students flexibility to learn at a time and place
of their choosing.
Graduates of medical coding schools should seriously consider getting certified
as they will be looked upon favorably by prospective employers. Being certified
demonstrates your competence in medical coding training and commitment to high
standards of healthcare.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) issues 3 medical
Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
Recent graduates of medical coding schools can get an entry-level coding
credential to certify their competency. The CCA is the starting point for
graduates of medical coding schools who are beginning their career.
Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
The CCS credential denotes a high standard of proficiency in coding beyond the
entry level certification. Medical coders must be very familiar with the
ICD-9-CM coding system and the CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) coding
system's surgery section. Clinical coders must, in addition, be apprised of
medical terminology, hospital practices, pharmacology and treatment options in
order to translate the information within clinical case notes into medical
Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P)
The CCS-P is a medical coder who is certified to work in a physician-based
environment such as physicians' offices, clinics, specialty centers or other
similar settings. In addition to having a sound knowledge of ICD-9-CM and CPT
coding systems, a certified CCS-P will also be familiar with HCPCS (Healthcare
Common Procedure Coding System) Level II coding systems.
Before enrolling in a medical coding school, you should establish its
credibility as an educational institution. If you have selected a medical coding
certificate program, you need to verify that the medical training course is
approved by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). For
medical coding schools offering degrees programs, you should check the
institution's accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Health
Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), which is responsible
for ensuring various medical coding training programs meet a minimum set of
criteria for comprehensive training.
School Graduates Earning Potential and Employment
Graduates of medical coding schools made $25,590 on average in 2004 with the
middle 50 percent earning between $20,650 and $32,990. Those who worked in
tertiary centers and group practices tended to earn more.
Employment prospects look good as the demand for skilled medical coding school
graduates has grown significantly. This is primarily due to the exponential
growth of the managed care and health services delivery industries. Medical
coders can advance in their career by specializing or moving into management.
Those who specialize may do so in a particular type of coding or cancer
registry, for example. Such skills can be gained on the job and certification is
available. Certified medical coders have a significant edge because prospective
employers highly regard their credentials and expertise.