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Medical Coding Could Be the Best Work from Home Job Available Today

Medical Coding Could Be the Best Work from Home Job Available Today

What is Medical Coding and Billing?

Medical coders and billers are unsung healthcare heroes.

Anytime you visit your family doctor, get an X-ray, or go to the emergency room, a medical coder is working on your case behind the scenes. They don't treat patients, medical coders they are essential to the delivery of high quality healthcare.

Why?

Because medical coding and billing helps to ensure that patients are charged correctly for the care they receive, and that doctors, healthcare providers and insurance companies are compensated fairly.  In addition, both coders and billers provide researchers with vital data used to prevent diseases and epidemics.

If you think that sounds important, you're right.

Without medical coding and billing, our healthcare system would grind to a halt.

That's why medical coders are always in high demand, and why it's one of the highest paying jobs available today. 

In fact, medical coding is listed among the top 20 fastest growing occupations in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of health information positions will grow 8% between 2019 and 2029. This growth rate is faster than the national average for all occupations. Approximately 30,000 new positions will be added by 2029.

Medical coding is also one of the most flexible jobs you can get. You can perform many medical coding jobs at home. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote medical coding jobs have become much more common.

If you want to learn more about why medical coding is one of the best work from home jobs available today, then read on!

If you're ready to start applying, you can find many jobs in medical coding on MotherWorks.

ICD International Classification of Diseases

What Does a Medical Coder Do?

Health information professionals go to work whenever someone visits a doctor or healthcare facility. 

After a doctor makes a diagnosis or performs a procedure, a medical coder will update patient records and billing documents with special alphanumeric codes.

A medical coder determines which codes to apply based on documentation provided by the healthcare provider. This can include transcribed notes from a physician, visit summaries, and test results.

Patient records may include:

  • Medical History
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatments
  • Procedures
  • Surgeries
  • Drugs Prescribed

A medical biller can then create a bill or make an insurance claim. In some cases, a medical coder will handle both roles.

As a medical coder, you will have to become familiar with these three types of codes.

  1. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is used for patient diagnoses
  2. The Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes are used for medical procedures performed in hospitals and clinics.
  3. The Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) is used for healthcare delivery services not covered by the CPT codes.

The ICD and CPT Codes are among the most common and important codes. CPT codes are maintained by the American Medical Association (AMA).  

ICD codes are found in electronic medical records, medical charts, bills, and hospital records. CPT codes refer to a procedure or service performed.

Medical Coding by the Numbers

To give you a very topical real world example, U07.1 is the ICD code for COIVD-19. The code is not only important for patients and healthcare providers, it will be used by epidemiologists and government officials to track the spread of the disease and fight the pandemic.

Another common code involving patients over the age of 50 is the CPT code for a diagnostic colonoscopy is 45378. That number will show up on the patient’s bill, in their medical records, and on insurance claims.

90630 may be a Zip Code in Southern California, but it is also the HCPCS code used by Medicare for a flu vaccination.  

As you might imagine, there are thousands of codes in use.  The ICD has in the neighborhood of 70,000 codes describing illnesses and just as many codes that describe treatments. The CPT codes are more than 10,000 strong.

medical billing title banner

What's the Difference Between Medical Coding and Medical Billing?

Generally speaking, a medical coder works behind the scenes with medical records, but a medical biller will also interact with patients. 

A medical biller facilitates billing for doctors and insurance companies, so it's usually necessary to communicate with patients. Medical billers issue invoices to patients for visits and procedures and send documentation to insurance companies to seek reimbursements. They answer questions from insurers and may be in involved in appeals when claims are rejected.

Billers and Coders have a similar skill set, but medical billers may have a better understanding of what insurance companies require. In smaller offices, a medical coder may perform both jobs.

Both medical coders and billers also work for government health insurance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Jobs in Medical Coding

There are a wide range of jobs in medical coding with differing titles and responsibilities. Some jobs will only deal with coding for office visits, while other jobs will be focused on a hospital setting. Here are some of the more common job titles you will come across in your job search.

  • Certified Medical Coder (CPC)
  • Certified Outpatient Coder
  • Certified Inpatient Coder
  • Medical Records Specialist
  • Medical Coding Analyst
  • Clinical Coder
  • Medical Records Auditor
  • Medical Records Technician
  • Medical Billing Specialist
  • Medical Payment Poster
  • Reimbursement Specialist
  • Certified Physician Coder
  • HIM Physician Coder
  • HCC Medical Coder
  • Coding Compliance Specialist

Medical Coding Certification

A college degree is not required to become a medical coder, but you will need to have training and credentials if you want to earn more money.

You will have to take a medical coding course so that you can read and interpret the medical terminology and documentation generated from a patient visit, and accurately apply the proper codes. You will also need understand human anatomy and physiology.

In addition, you will need to become familiar with medical terminology, and you may be required to become a Certified Professional Coder (CPC).

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AACP) offers a program of courses that will prepare you to become CPC.  It’s a six step process:

  1. Medical Terminology and Anatomy Course
  2. Pathophysiology Course
  3. CPC Preparation Course
  4. CPC Certification Study Guide
  5. CPC Online Practice Exams
  6. CPC Certification Exam

Not for the faint of heart, the CPC exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions, which must be completed in 5 hours and 40 minutes. But it’s worth it, because certified medical coders can earn as much as $25,000 more than coders without certification. 

Certificates can also be earned through colleges and universities, including Purdue and Liberty University.

You may also want to specialize in an area of medicine that interests you. There are many specialty areas, including:

  • Ambulatory Surgical Center
  • Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery
  • Family Practice
  • Gastroenterology
  • General Surgery
  • OB/GYN
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Urology

stethoscope on a medical chart

Medical Coding Salary

Medical coding and billing can pay very well.

According to the AACP, the average annual salary for a medical coder (certified and non-certified) exceeds $55K. That's about 15% above the median salary of all U.S. occupations. 

But pay can vary widely depending on the specific job, the experience required, and the location. Hourly pay can range from $15 to $35 an hour.

Your salary will also depend on your level of certification. For example, becoming a Certified Inpatient Coder can raise your salary to $65K. With additional certifications and credentials, you can expect to earn more than $70K per year. There is a different certification track for billers.

In addition to excellent pay, medical coding positions offer good job security and better quality of life. Health information professionals rank number 55 on the U.S. News and World Report's list of 100 Best Jobs

Where do Medical Coders Work?

You don't always see them because they work behind the scenes, but medical coders are everywhere in healthcare.  More than 340,000 people are working in the U.S. as medical coders and billers. 

You'll find medical coders in doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics and a myriad of other healthcare facilities. 

But more and more, medical coders are working from home.  The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically expanded the number of remote medical coding job opportunities.

Confidentiality is Key in Remote Medical Coding

Medical coding can be done remotely if proper security measures are in place to protect the confidentiality of patient medical records.

While technology makes it possible work from home as a medical coder, remote medical coders must take steps to protect patient privacy.  It requires an understanding of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and personal health information (PHI).

As a work at home as a medical coder you will need to have wi-fi routers and computers that are encrypted and password protected.  You will also need to have quiet place to work, since medical coding requires concentration, accuracy and speed to reach production targets.

The Future of Medical Coding

The workload and stress that can come with some medical coding jobs may someday be reduced by automated systems and artificial intelligence, also known as AI.  AI-enhanced coding is not meant to replace human judgement.

But machine based systems can speed up the process of assigning codes, while human coders review and approve. This leaves more time to focus on complex cases. It can also help to reduce costs.

Medical coders entering the field today will be probably encounter technology changes as their career progresses.

Is Medical Coding Right for You?

If you want to be medical coder, whether at home or on-site, you should have excellent attention to detail, feel comfortable managing data, and like working at a computer. 

Medical coders often use special software provided by their organization, which may interact with a secure private network to review medical records. But they also deal with digital and paper documents and email. 

Not scare you, but you will be held to a very high standard for accuracy in your coding and you will likely have production quotas to meet on a daily or weekly basis. The process of translating patient records into codes can be tedious, so you will have to be patient and persistent.

Medical coding can be challenging.  But it is also a very rewarding and high paying career.

You can be secure in the knowledge that medical coders play an essential and important role in contributing to the ongoing success of our healthcare system, and helping patients to receive the care they need.

Good luck in your search!