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What is Medical Coding?

medical coding job description

Because it is one of the world’s fastest-growing health care professions, many people today are asking the question “What is medical coding?” The easy answer is that billing and coding are processes by which codes are assigned to services and diagnoses given by a physician, and then converted into insurance billing documents. While this broad definition may suffice for some purposes, it fails to accurately reflect the true scope of the medical coding job description.

This article will attempt to define medical coding in such a manner that provides information that is both relevant and useful to those interested in pursuing a coding certification. While some medical coding job descriptions may vary depending on the actual work environment, the following duties and responsibilities are most common of a typical coding position.

Medical Coding in a Nutshell

Because the professions of medical coding and billing are so often referred to in tandem, it comes as a surprise to many to learn that coding and billing actually refers to two entirely different disciplines. In other words, there is no such thing as a medical coder, but rather there are certified coding specialists. Further clouding the question is that, although they hold different titles and distinctly different responsibilities, professionals in these two disciplines work closely together and depend on one another.

What is Medical Coding?

What Is Medical CodingMedical coding specialists are responsible for taking a patient’s medical charts of current treatments and procedures and accurately assigning the proper code for billing and recording purposes. Its purpose is to ensure that medical records are accurate and their content universally clear to anyone who uses them. By using codes as descriptions instead of long-hand writing, there is minimal risk of misinterpretation and a reduced likelihood of inaccurate transcription.

Job Description

The following list of duties are part of a typical day at work for medical coders.

  • Review of all the patient’s medical charts and records so information is complete
  • Verifying that treatment and diagnosis are properly listed
  • Properly assign the proper diagnostic code to establish the amount of fees to be paid by the patient or insurance provider
  • Medical Coders will use a number of different coding systems such as the ICD-9-CM/HCPCS/APC/DRG/CPT depending on the procedure
  • Must be completely accurate with assigning codes in order for a timely payment for services
  • Stay in contact with insurance companies, federal and state agencies and patients to answer questions and inquiries
  • Regularly communicate with other medical personnel and employees
  • Explaining insurance benefits and procedures to the patients and families
  • Stay on top of changes of insurance and local and federal government regulations
  • May help with bookkeeping and setting of appointments, when necessary

What is the Training Like?

Although not always required, most employers do prefer to hire people who have graduated from a medical billing and coding school and subsequently passed a certification test. This is because anyone who has completed this process has already displayed the math, science and computer aptitudes required to succeed in the workplace – not to mention a rudimentary mastery of the processes that will be involved. This fact begs the question, “what is medical coding school like?”

online medical coding classesTraditional programs and medical coding online schools require an average of two years to complete, and feature a curriculum made up of both job-specific materials and basic science and health coursework. Like the jobs themselves, the required studies demand a high level of attention to detail, good organizational skills and an excellent memory. Proficiency with computers and other forms of technology is also a must, and is often reflected in the hands-on training provided.

It takes a certain type of person to succeed in the medical coding professions and the classes provided by accredited schools do an excellent job of determining whether or not their students fit the mold. Of course, one of the most important things needed to succeed is desire. If you’ve already asked the question “what is medical coding” then you’re probably fine in that area.

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