Reality Check: Is Learning Medical Coding Really as Difficult as You Think?

difficulty studyingMedical coding and billing careers are in-demand—a 50% shortage is expected nationwide by the end of the year, meaning a great job is waiting for you! So don’t get discouraged if a medical coding training program seems too hard to begin or finish; it may be easier than you think. Here are some helpful tips and words of encouragement for choosing and enduring a formal training program to become a medical coding pro.

What is medical coding and billing?
A medical coder is a health information professional who assigns universally identifiable codes to a patient’s medical diagnoses and procedures. Medical billing professionals, on the other hand, are the liaisons between health insurance companies and healthcare facilities. They create and present health insurance claims then collect the funds. In smaller offices, the same person often handles both coding and billing. Sometimes coders are also asked to abstract information from the records for statistical and tracking purposes.

Is medical coding difficult?
Accuracy is essential with this profession, which can be challenging. Medical coders and billers use thousands of codes from multiple code sets (ICD, CPT, HCPCS) that are updated frequently. They convert complex medical information into these clearly defined sets of codes, which demands a knowledge of health topics such as anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, and more. Proficiency in medical coding means being extremely accurate at all times while having a keen eye for the tiniest details. Many jobs within the healthcare field, such as health information technician, can find great value in possessing this skill.

But wait! Before you quit your training program, you should know about the very shiny silver lining to medical coding: you don’t need to memorize all those codes. Medical coders reference codebooks and coding software programs in order to make the correct assignment. Just be sure to keep abreast of frequent code updates, such as the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, classification systems, and technological advances like the electronic health record (EHR) system.

Is medical coding a good career?
You may be wondering if medical coding is a good career for you. At the moment, the demand for skilled and qualified medical coders is high, as the population continues to age at a rapid pace. With that high demand comes higher wages each year. The most recent reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show medical records and health information technicians, medical coders included, earn a median pay of $17.84 per hour, or roughly $37,000 per year. If you get into the top echelons of the profession, you could end up making more than $56,000 every year. And the future continues to look bright for medical coding. The field is expected to grow at a much faster rate than average. Most medical coders work in hospitals and clinics, but some work-from-home opportunities are also available. A job in medical coding also offers a good potential for advancement opportunities as you gain more experience. It’s clear that knowledge in medical coding and billing can lead to a prosperous career for many years to come.

Can I learn medical coding?
Because healthcare is currently going through some big changes, now is a great time to jump in and learn medical coding. With the help of a quality medical coding training program, you can be a certified pro within months. A good training program will teach you everything you need for success and help you find a job and make professional connections. What really makes a training program top-notch is if it provides hands-on experience and job-finding helps. Programs should include practice on authentic medical records and reports as well as tools for graduates.

Make sure your training program covers all aspects of the job including CPT, HCPCS, and ICD-10 code sets; classification systems; medical terminology; health information guidelines; and reimbursement methodologies. The program should also prepare you to earn industry credentials such as the CCA (offered by AHIMA) and CPC (offered by AAPC) certification exams. Thorough training and passing a certification exam will put you in a great position to get a job right out of training.

Are you already enrolled in a program? Be sure to take full advantage of the resources your program offers to learn medical coding. For example, Career Step’s online medical coding and billing training offers students valuable graduate resources, including established employer relationships, resume and cover letter review, personalized interview tutorials, new job notifications, and an advice hotline. The Career Step program is also one of the only online certificate programs that has been approved by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the largest medical coding industry association. Once you’ve completed Career Step’s online training, you’ll be prepared to become a credentialed CPC and CCA quickly, meaning a job isn’t too far away.

So is medical billing and coding a good career for you? Absolutely. With the right training and a little hard work, you can conquer the challenges of medical coding and billing and land a great job at a critical time in the field. Becoming a medical coder is worth the effort it takes when you enroll in the right program. Already finished with school? What has your training experience been? Comment below and let us know what encouragement you have for any of the newbies in the field.

If you are interested in this in-demand career and would like to become a medical coding and billing specialist, browse through Career Step’s medical coding program with comprehensive ICD-10 training. Call us now for more info!

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6 thoughts on “Reality Check: Is Learning Medical Coding Really as Difficult as You Think?

    • Steve Hirchak says:

      Here you go!

      Great questions!
      How much time does it take for course completion?
      – The program is an online self-paced program designed to be completed in 4 months, however, we give you a full 12 months to complete it if you need it. This way you can work around your kids and family’s schedule very similar to the job.
      After completion will there be immediate placement?
      – 94-97% of our graduates we are able to help find employment within the first 60 days of completion.

      I hope this helps!

    • Steve Hirchak says:

      Hi Haley,

      Career Step is registered under the Utah Post-Secondary Proprietary School Act but is not nationally or regionally accredited. However, our career-focused training programs are approved by a number of industry specific organizations and are designed with employer feedback to ensure students are gaining exactly the skills needed to get a job and succeed in the workforce.

      The Career Step training programs prepare students for career fields where employers are looking for skilled applicants. Career Step works closely with employers when developing a training program to ensure students graduate with the skills employers are looking for. We’ve also developed close ties to industry associations, aligning our programs with their recommendations. Career Step programs boast the following recognitions:

      Career Step’s Medical Transcription Editor curriculum is approved by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), the leading medical transcription industry association.
      The Professional Medical Coding and Billing program is approved by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), one of the largest and most prestigious health information organizations in the country.
      The Career Step Pharmacy Technician program has been reviewed and approved by the State Boards of Pharmacy in Indiana, Utah, and Virginia. (Many states don’t have any regulations on the education of pharmacy technicians, and very few require board approval. For more information on each state’s pharmacy technician education regulations, view our State Requirements pdf.) Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy also offer Career Step Pharmacy Technician students the opportunity to participate in a hands-on externship in their stores nationwide.
      Career Step programs are also designed to prepare you for certifications that greatly improve your employment opportunities. Employers are often more familiar with various credentials than with the quality of education provided by different schools. To help your resume stand out from other applicants, various Career Step programs help prepare students to earn the following third-party credentials:

      Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
      Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
      Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
      Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS)
      Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
      CompTIA A+ Certification
      Microsoft Office Specialist – Master (MOS-Master)
      This focus on helping you gain the skills needed to succeed in the workforce has made our students successful in the job market—over 84% of Career Step graduates are employed in their field of study, 92% of employed Medical Transcription graduates work from home in their first job, Medical Coding and Billing graduates report a certification exam pass rate that’s a full 15 percentage points higher than the national average, and Pharmacy Technician students can take advantage of externship opportunities with Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy.

      The differences between earning a certification and earning an associate degree are important to note. Acquiring a certification consists of taking courses centered solely around a specific professional or technical field. Associate degrees, on the other hand, usually require the student to take additional courses in other subjects such as writing, math, or other general fields. Getting a certification tends to be the more streamlined approach once you know what career you want to pursue.

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