Ever wonder how long does it take to be a certified medical coder? So did we and looked into the time it takes to become a medical billing and coding specialist.
Certified medical coding and billing specialists work on records presented by physicians and other healthcare providers for proper coding.
They analyse comprehensive data concerning patients’ medical history, illnesses, injuries, test results, treatment procedures from files and records.
Specific alphanumeric codes are then designated to the information based on a standard and official coding system. The responsibility of a medical coder requires accuracy and thoroughness.
The physicians and the employing healthcare facilities depend so much on accurate coding for comprehensive patient information, updated documentation related to the healthcare facilities’ transactions, and correct billing and payment record.
This is an exacting work and will require you to at least have an associate’s degree and a credential in coding.
How long does it take to be a medical coder and biller?
Under most circumstances, it takes about 3 years to become certified as a medical coder. Here are the steps.
1. Get your GED or a high school diploma
If you haven’t done it yet, complete your secondary education and get your high school diploma or GED.
While at it, make sure that you put in enough emphasis on Chemistry, Biology, Algebra, Typing, and computer skills. These subjects could actually be advantageous in pursuing your medical coding career later.
2. Complete an associate’s degree
Enrol and complete an associate’s degree. It would take about two (2) years of study in a college.
Consider getting a degree in Health Information Technology or other closely-related courses offered by your school. This field will provide you with the general medical and health background necessary to medical coding. Take note of the following:
a) Choose a school that has been accredited by the CAHIM, or the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
b) You may also choose a school duly approved by a foreign organization that has forged a reciprocity agreement with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
c) Requisite courses include Physiology, Anatomy, Database Security and Management, Healthcare Reimbursement, and Classification and Coding Systems for medical or clinical purposes.
3. Obtain a Registered Health Information Technician’s (RHIT) credential
The RHIT credential is obtained by passing an examination administered by AHIMA. Medical coding specialists armed with this certification are more preferred by most employers. At the AHIMA website, you’ll find the following information useful:
a) You may apply online or submit a paper application with resume to take the RHIT examination, including an official school transcript of records if you’re taking the exam for the first time.
b) Pay the correct exam fee, accordingly; scan your Authorization to Test (ATT) Form, and schedule of examination.
c) Finally, you must pass the exam.
So you know the answer to how long does it take to learn to be a medical coder is about 3 years.
But as in other education programs, the time it takes to be a medical coder will depend largely on whether you are studying full-time or part-time, and how committed you are to your ambition.
To gain entry as medical coder, you can improve your chances at getting a job with better pay and opportunities if you have an edge over coders.
Tips to become a medical billing and coding professional
1. Acquire credential as coder in a field of specialization
A credential as medical coding specialized in a particular field will definitely give you an advantage over other applicants when contending for a position.
The Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC) and the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) offer an exam for those who wish to obtain credentials.
These organizations usually require interested credential applicants to become members first before they are allowed to take the requisite exam.
2. Update your skills and knowledge
To continue being relevant in your profession, you must keep your skill set updated by taking continuing education classes.
This is also normally required by credentialing organizations in maintaining and renewing credentials issued to medical coders.
A federal law requires all healthcare providers to ensure that medical records be kept on electronic form; hence, medical coders must keep their skills current in terms of technology. This might involve learning new applications and software.
3. Build experience from various coding jobs
The initial job opportunities might not look as promising or well-paying as you have dreamt of; however, a not-so-ideal first job will provide you the necessary experience.
You may start looking at dental offices, doctors’ clinics, medical laboratories, billing firms, and other facilities.
If you find opportunities for on-the-job training close by, grab the chance.
Experience and a good word from your employer regarding your performance will certainly influence the kind of work opportunities that you will have in the future.
In encoding patient information, a medical coder needs to have adequate medical understanding about diseases, medication and treatment.
Apart from familiarizing with medical language and memorizing codes, medical coders have the higher moral responsibility of keeping precise work to ensure that doctors are provided with the exact information about their patients’ health record, Medicare and Medicaid benefits are properly coded for accurate computation, health professionals’ performance are tracked, and fraud and error are prevented.
As you can see, medical coding is a very important job – it is crucial to the whole medical and healthcare system. I hope this answers the question about how long does it take to become a medical coder.