The duties of a Certified Coding Specialist are to convert the notes and records generated by physicians into general alpha-numeric codes. These highly-skilled specialists play a vital role in the health care industry, and employer interest in their skills is at record levels. This article gives a basic strategy to becoming a medical coder, as well as strategies for finding that initial job and maximizing your salary.
What a Certified Coder Does
The Certified Coding Specialist is responsible for starting the entire process of medical coding and billing for a doctor’s office. Right after a physician has attended to a patient, the CCS is responsible for reading all of the paperwork on the diagnosis and services offered, and changing it to alpha-numeric codes. The significance of this responsibility is paramount.
By assigning unique codes to represent the patient’s diagnosis, the chance of improper drugs and other treatments being used is all but eradicated. Prior to the advent of medical coding, health care records might be wrong due to misspellings or other difficulties brought on by attempting to read someone else’s hand-written remarks. With the process utilized today, the chances of this taking place are low.
Next, the code that the specialist applies to services allows the medical biller to properly invoice the insurance company. Again, the usage of a coding system as opposed to standard notes greatly lessens the chance of inaccurate billing.
How To Become a Medical Coding Specialist
To become a medical coder, you’ll need to pass the certification examination given by the AHIMA. Although it’s possible to do this without the benefit of formal classes, you should still register for a few medical coding classes just to assist you in preparing for the test.
The following is a checklist you may use as a personal roadmap to becoming a medical coding specialist in just two years.
Meet the Educational Prerequisites
Though prior coding and billing certification isn’t always a requirement for employment as a medical coder, having a high school diploma or GED is. Many companies will not even interview a job candidate who does not have this qualification.
Earn an Associate’s Degree
With so much interest in the profession, a large number of online schools for medical billing and coding are providing associate’s degree courses specifically designed for the would-be CCS. Because the programs are fairly affordable and easy to accommodate into most students’ schedules, it is advised that you enroll in one as soon as you decide to become a medical coding specialist. The courses can help you get prepared for the accreditation test, and employers will reward your degree with a larger starting salary.
Work in Health Care as You Go to School
This move is not a requirement for employment, but it will pay huge dividends if you opt to take it. Many health clinics and hospitals are willing to take on new staff members even if they have no past experience, so long as the person is participating in an accredited degree program. Capitalize on this willingness to help pay your way through school, and to gain priceless on-the-job training.
Pass the CCS Exam
Immediately after finishing off your associate’s degree course, you are allowed to take the CCS Examination offered by the AHIMA. The examination is comprised of two parts and assesses you for your ability within the ICD-9 and CPT standard coding systems – both of which you will have studied in your schooling. Once you’ve successfully passed this test, you will be elible for hire with most employers.
Your Career as a Medical Coder
Provided that you have followed the process outlined in this article, getting a job as a CCS should be the easiest part of the journey. After working through school, you will have made numerous contacts as well as built a deep network of possible employers. When you apply for positions, make sure you stress your credentials (an associate’s degree and, hopefully, a very good test score on the accreditation exam) because this is where they’ll really start to pay dividends.
In order to remain certified as a CCS, you’ll have to make sure to follow developments in the medical coding and billing field, and keep your skill set as current as possible. Many people make this happen by enrolling in additional online classes at night. While you are at it, you could even begin studying toward a specialized medical coding degree that will enhance your salary and increase your value to employers as a coding specialist.
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