Medical coding has always been challenging and will soon become even more so. Certified professional coders may work in clinics or hospitals, deciphering providers' dictation or notes to determine which code to apply to a patient's health record for proper reimbursement. Or they may be on the receiving end, working for an insurer that provides the reimbursement.
In October 2013, U.S. medical coders must comply with a more complex system of coding that, thanks to the World Health Organization, is being adopted worldwide. It's known as ICD-10, or International Classification of Disease, 10th revision.
ICD-10 is designed to support electronic health information management, which many area hospitals have already adopted. The American Academy of Professional Coders (www.aapc.com) and the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org) are offering ICD-10 courses to help speed compliance.
More Complex Codes Coming
Jenny Nemeth, a registered health information technician at Hennepin County Medical Center (www.hcmed.org), says coders will have to learn longer and more complex codes. "Now the highest digit is 5 and ICD-10 has numerous digits and letters," she explains.
Nemeth, who received an Associate of Applied Science degree from Rasmussen College (www.rasmussen.edu) in St. Cloud, codes for the hospital's emergency and surgery departments. Anoka Technical College (www.anokatech.edu) also offers medical coding.
"I wanted something in the healthcare field but I didn't want to work with patients," Nemeth explains. "I like the flexibility of the hours and I am more of an individual worker. I like that because I can work at my own pace."
What Coders Need To Know
Certified professional coders must know anatomy, physiology and medical terminology. With further education, they may specialize in a number of areas, including anesthesia, cardiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, gastroenterology, rheumatology and surgery.
No matter the area, coders must also be detail-oriented in order to code correctly for diagnoses, procedures and services. For example, if a strep test is performed and the diagnosis is unclear, Nemeth says she sends the provider a query. Coders must be careful to word such queries so as not to influence providers, she advises. "Ask questions," she adds. "Verify the information that you have."
Now's a great time to get into medical coding, according to Roberta Regis, an instructor of Medical Coding Fundamentals at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park (www.hennepintech.edu). Hennepin Tech partners with Anoka Tech in the Coding Specialist Program. "The diagnosis coding system is going to be changing, so for a coder to get their foot in the door now is great," Regis says. "There will be more electronic medical records. There are many possibilities in the medical coding field."