What does a medical coder do?
The medical coder is a professional with a unique blend of clinical knowledge and information management skills, who
- reviews medical records and assigns codes based on diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement and research purposes
- understands and applies coding guidelines and reimbursement methodologies.
- applies laws and regulations relative to maintenance, disclosure, confidentiality and retention of health information
- uses computer applications to manage health information.
Is the medical coding career field right for me?
Making a decision about a career is a difficult one. If you’re interested in health and information technologies, laws and ethics, and the improvement of health care, and are an organized, detail-oriented individual, this diverse career field may be just right for you. A strong background in the health sciences including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and health information technology courses, and computer courses are vital to the work the medical coder does.
Medical coders are primarily employed in hospitals, outpatient facilities, physician offices or group practices, clinics, insurance companies, and medical billing companies. The position title and work setting dictates the actual tasks and responsibilities. Each employer may have specific qualifications, e.g. education and certification, they’re looking for when hiring a medical coder. All employers will conduct a coding test as part of the hiring process.
What are the working conditions?
Working conditions are usually flexible, primarily day shift with no weekends or holidays. The actual coding environment includes sitting for long periods of time, reviewing medical records (paper or electronic), using a computer all day and working independently. Productivity and quality standards are required, therefore, this position may be stressful.
What is the job outlook for medical coders?
Health information technician/medical coders are one of the fastest growing occupations in the country today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical records and health information technicians is expected to grow much faster than average for all occupations through 2026 because of rapid growth in the number of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that will be increasingly scrutinized by health insurance companies, regulators, courts, and consumers.
How flexible is the program in meeting individual scheduling needs?
After meeting the prerequisites, a student must complete a health and public services rolling admission application form to apply to the program. The program is a one-year certificate program with the HIM courses held during the morning and evening hours. Once accepted, students must sign up for the morning or evening sections of the HIM courses. A new group (32) of students starts the program every fall semester. Some students choose to reduce their workload by taking general study courses or health sciences prior to formal program entry. These options are important considerations for those whose work or whose family responsibilities might otherwise prevent them from pursuing an education. General study courses and health science courses are available during the day and night. Currently, the program starts with a new group of students in the fall and continues through to the following August. Please note that the summer schedule is extremely concentrated and accelerated with classes starting in June. Students may also receive credit for classes based on work experience and may test out of a class (up to 12 credit hours) by taking a proficiency test.
How soon can I be accepted into the medical coding program?
Currently, there is no waitlist for the medical coding program.
Does the program have a clinical component?
During the summer session, students get hands-on coding experience in the HIM virtual lab (J204) at the college. You’re given a variety of settings to code from, such as inpatient, ancillary, same-day surgery and emergency department. Professional practice experience is held five days a week for the last two weeks of the summer semester.
Will I be required to travel?
No. The clinical component is held at Stark State College in the HIM virtual lab (J204) for the entire two weeks.
What happens after completion of the medical coding certificate program?
Following completion, the student is prepared to take a national certification examination. The American Health Information Management Association and/or American Academy of Professional Coders offer certification examinations. The examinations are comprehensive, covering all aspects of health information, coding, reimbursement, science and other subjects addressed in the curriculum. There are numerous certification examinations (CCA, CCS, CPC, CCS-P, etc.) available based on individual and/or employer requirements. The program strongly recommends that the student take the CCA exam as this exam is intended for entry-level candidates with minimal coding experience or graduates of coding certificate or training programs. The CCA should be viewed as the starting point for an individual entering a new career as a coder. The more advanced CCS and/or CCS-P exams demonstrate mastery level coding skills, obtained by work experience that the CCA would strive for to advance their coding career.
Are there continuing education requirements?
Yes, lifelong learning and keeping skills up-to-date are important in this field. Each certification may require different continuing education requirements; for example for the CCA to maintain certification, they must complete 20 CEUs in a two-year period and do a yearly self-assessment.
Is the medical coding certificate program accredited?
The medical coding certificate program is approved by the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Developed in 2002, it uses the same courses in the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)-accredited health information technology program. The program is currently reviewing the requirements to be approved by AHIMA.
Can I continue into the health information management associate degree program after I finish the coding certificate program?
Yes, however, it is on a space-available basis. Students must complete a health and public services rolling admission application form and submit a written letter requesting admission to the HIM program before the end of the spring semester of the coding certificate program. Admission to the HIM program depends on space availability since the student will be joining an existing HIM class. The number of spaces available will be determined at the end of the spring semester. Admission will be based on seat availability and is first-come, first-served. Please note courses needed to complete the associate degree are offered only during the day and the student must follow the curriculum as designed to complete the associate degree in one year.
How can I get more information?
Make an appointment to discuss the curriculum, program requirements and the schedule of courses. Contact Gina Schoolcraft at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-494-6170 ext. 4963.
Also visit these websites for additional information:
- American Health Information Management Association – ahima.org
- American Academy of Professional Coders – aapc.com
- Ohio Health Information Management Association – ohima.org