Medical coders gather information from each patient record for coding under a special system used by hospitals and doctors' offices. The coding system allows each part of a patient's record, such as tests, treatments, results and diagnoses, to be classified and coded by number. After assigning the code, information is entered into computers. The coding must be very accurate because the information is used for payment from insurance companies and government programs such as Medicare. It is also used to study the effectiveness of medical treatments. Medical coders also prepare basic statistical reports.
Coders must possess knowledge of medical coding systems, medical terminology, diseases and medications. A high school diploma or equivalent, plus completion of a course in medical records coding is usually required. Courses are available at community colleges or vocational schools. Some hospitals require graduation from a formal coder-training program or completion of an academic class in medical coding and some experience in medical coding.
Coders who pass an exam may be certified by the American Health Information Management Association. This optional certification process requires a high school diploma or GED and several years of experience.
Links to Additional Career Information
California Health Information Association (559) 251-5038 www.californiahia.org
American Health Information Management Association (312) 233-1100 www.ahima.org