Medical Coders are Part of the Healthcare Process from Start to Finish

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If you relish working in a fast-paced environment, are good with numbers, and enjoy personal interactions, then the medical coding profession might be for you.

Victoria College’s Medical Coding I course provides skills and knowledge in the health information field, including the classification of diseases and current procedural terminology coding for payment/reimbursement by a patient or third party. Medical coders are also taught ways to prevent fraud and abuse, thus saving money for their employers.

“Medical coders should have great customer service skills and the desire to assist clients and their peers in delivering healthcare,” said Marilyn Powell, VC’s Allied Health Coordinator & Instructor. “The job takes place in a busy office, so it’s not a sit-down type of job.”

Powell also said coders must be computer literate and have a clear understanding of the revenue cycle. That cycle begins with their first encounter with the patient and includes insurance verification, documentation in the electronic health record, posting of payments, and winds up with a clean claim.

“A ‘clean claim’ means that every service that was rendered in that office by all the people involved will be covered and everything will be paid out,” she explained.

VC’s Medical Coding I and II courses are offered three times a year – in the fall, spring, and summer – on the VC Main Campus, VC’s Gonzales Center, and VC’s Calhoun County Center in Port Lavaca. The classes meet two nights a week for six weeks, and are held from 5:30-8:30 p.m., which is convenient for students who work during the day.

Prior to enrolling in VC’s Medical Coding I course, students should have completed the Medical Assisting Course, which covers topics such as the electronic health record, how to give immunizations, and customer service skills.

Medical Coding I is an introduction to the work world of the coder.

“In the past, the medical coder was in the back of the office and was the last to see all the medical documentation,” Powell said. “Not anymore. Coding now begins with the patient’s first phone call to make an appointment.”

Once they finish Medical Coding I, students move to Medical Coding II, which is basically a preparation for the American Association of Professional Coders certification exam. Powell said students completing the first course can apply for a medical coding job without taking the second course. However, students who finish Medical Coding II and pass the exam earn higher salaries than those just completing the first course, she added.

Medical coders can work in medical offices, hospitals, emergency rooms, long-term care facilities, home care facilities, and assisted living facilities.

- Eric Jensen

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Focus On:
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians


What They Do:

Medical records and health information technicians compile, process, and maintain medical records of hospital and clinic patients in a manner consistent with medical, administrative, ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements of the healthcare system. They also process, maintain, compile, and report patient information for health requirements and standards in a manner consistent with the healthcare industry’s numerical coding system.

How Much Does It Pay?
$19,000 to $54,000 annually

Job Outlook
In the Crossroads region, there are 186 medical records and health information technicians employed. This number is expected to increase by 11.4 percent over the next four years.

Education & Training
VC’s Workforce & Continuing Education Department offers noncredit training in two levels of Medical Coding. Students completing Medical Coding II who meet all requirements will have the option to take the American Association of Professional Coders certification examination.

Source: emsi Career Coach 2015

Student Spotlight:
Dead-end Job Leads to New Medical Career Path

The end of a 10-year medical transcription job contract turned out to be good news for Kristin Bast. Through Internet searches, she learned of the high demand for certified medical coders and knew that was what she wanted to do.

Kristin Bast

Kristin Bast

“As a mother of three children and with a husband who is also going back to school, the classes at Victoria College were convenient for me,” Bast said. “The teachers we had for the class were amazing. They were very knowledgeable as they have been doing coding for several years, and one of them had taken the certification test not too long ago.”

Bast currently works at a Citizens Medical Center lab and registers outpatient lab work as it comes in from nursing homes, clinics, and home healthcare facilities.

“I get to work with diagnosis codes a lot, so the coding classes really helped in this capacity,” Bast said. “Eventually, I will take the coding certification test and, hopefully, work in a doctor’s office.”

Bast encourages others to go into the medical coding field and become certified.

“If a medical visit is coded correctly, the clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office will be reimbursed fully, and that is the end result that is wanted,” she explained. “If the visit is not coded correctly, the bill could be rejected and not be paid at all.”

- Eric Jensen

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