Medical coding has been around for a long time but recently it has gained quite a bit of attention.
It has been sold widely to the public that this is an “easy work from home, data entry job that has little requirements and high earning potential”. This statement is only partly true though.
Before you invest time and money into an education and certification, take a moment to investigate this field and its potential a little more.
Myth 1: Coding is Easy
Most individuals who hear about medical coding for the first time believe that it is easy to learn and/or perform. Most individuals who have attempted to learn, or who do medical coding would disagree.
To be a medical coder you must be very detail oriented and organized.
Medical coders must also have a broad knowledge base of medical billing, medical terminology, gross anatomy, insurance policies, practice management, coding guidelines, HIPPA regulations, how to use each coding manual, and more.
In addition to being knowledgeable, medical coders must also have the ability to read and understand detailed, lengthy medical records and operative notes. Communication skill with physicians and insurance companies are also imperative.
Myth2: Work from Home
Many individuals hear that medical coders work from home and so they enter this field based on this alone.
While many individuals do medical coding do from home, there is more to it than what if often advertised.
In order to do medical coding from home individuals must first become certified as either a CPC or CCS. Following certification individuals must then gain on the job experience.
The majority of companies that allow medical coding from home require 2-3 years of on the job experience as a minimum.
Most coders who do medical coding from home are also independent contractors. Independent contracting should also be researched and considered prior to investing in this career.
Myth 3: Data Entry Job
Medical coding is a learned skill. The only thing data entry and medical coding have in common are the fact that both utilize 10 key.
Performing medical coding requires a knowledgeable individual to first read, interpret, and understand the medical record and/or operative note. They must then determine what information is pertinent and what is not. The pertinent information must then be translated into codes by utilizing three large manuals.
Translating this information into codes requires medical coders to know how to use the coding manuals as well as apply coding guidelines which determine things like; when a code can and cannot be used, sequencing multiple codes in the correct order, linking codes with other codes, when multiple codes are required for a single piece of information, etc. etc.
Medical coders must also know insurance specific coding guidelines as well and determine which guidelines should be applied in each situation.
Myth 4: Little Requirements
The government has not yet mandated any specific requirements that one must first meet in order to be a medical coder.
However, employers have taken action of their own. The majority of employers will not hire an individual as a medical coder without at least a CPC or CCS certification. Many employers also require at least some on the job experience in addition to this as well.
Individuals who wish to become a medical coder and/or do medical coding from home must make themselves employable.
To become employable in this field, individuals must follow a career path similar to those of many other careers.
Proper education is the best place to start. Taking a medical terminology and gross anatomy course should be the first step, followed by taking a medical coding course that will specifically prepare you for one of the two certification exams.
Once education has been obtained individuals must then sit for either the CPC exam that is offered by the AAPC, or for the CCS exam offered by AHIMA. Any other “medical coding certification” will not be recognized by employers.
After earning either the CPC or CCS credential individuals must then gain on the job experience. Similar to most other careers, starting out as a medical coder will require individuals to start in entry level positions and work their way up.
Due to the sensitivity of this work and the direct impact it has on revenue inflow and reimbursement, often newly certified coders find they must take unrelated positions while they learn from the medical coders in the coding department. Only after they have proven themselves do they begin to gain medical coding duties and receive promotions.
Working as a front desk receptionist in a physician’s office, working in the medical records department, or doing data entry in the medical billing department are common ways newly certified medical coders start out.
Myth 5: High Earning Potential
Earning potential varies due to many factors, such as geographic location, years of experience, type of specialty, economics, etc.
Starting out as a medical coder in an entry level position often pays very little.
If individuals are able to stick it out though, earn a less than desired pay, and gain that critical 2-3 years of experience, the flood gate will swing wide open.
Currently the medical coding field is experiencing something of a phenomenon. The market is lacking in experienced medical coders and positions are going un-fulfilled. This is causing employers to offer a high rate of pay in order to bring experienced workers into their organization.
In response to this need many individuals have taken educational courses and earned their certification. This action has caused an over saturation of newly inexperienced coders in the job market.
Newly certified coders are finding that gaining their first coding job is becoming a competition. In addition, entry level positions that they are seeking are also being filled by over qualified experienced individuals due to a sluggish economy.
As a result, newly certified coders are becoming disgruntled due to the fact that they have incurred expensive education, invested time, and cannot afford to invest more in a low paying position.
In the current market, gaining the first medical coding job is the key. If a newly certified coder can obtain an entry level position, do whatever is required of them, and earn the 2-3 years of experience employers are looking for, there will be no limit to both your career and income potential.
Example: Personally, I started out as a front desk receptionist. My first entry level coding job paid $10 -$12 per. hour. After gaining the required experience I chose to do medical coding from home where I earn over $50 per. hour.
In conclusion, medical coding is not exactly the “easy work from home, data entry job that has little requirements and high earning potential” career that it is often sold as, but there are some truths to this statement.
Medical coding is similar to most other careers, requiring education, dedication, hard work, and expertise. The harder one works the more they will succeed.
For those who have the single goal of doing medical coding from home, remember to research this field prior to investing time and money. Ensure this is the right job fit for you and that you can and are willing to make the necessary requirements to become a medical coder.