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Career Pathway — Hospital Facility Coding

Credential (Specialty) of Health Information Management (HIM)

What do they do?

Medical coders for hospitals spend their days reviewing medical records to assign inpatient and ambulatory surgery codes and ensure that the health care providers they work for are properly reimbursed for their services. Coding accurately is not easy. The coder must carefully read the doctor's and nurse's notes to determine exactly what services the patient received. The coder must also understand private payer policies and government regulations for accurate coding and billing.

Coding is extraordinarily detail-oriented work. The coder must carefully review the patient's chart to learn the diagnosis and itemize every service that was provided. If a service is overlooked, the provider will not receive payment for it. If the coder chooses the wrong code, the provider may have to return any excess payment or face legal charges for overbilling.

Codes change constantly, so coders must keep abreast of new rules and interpretations. A solid understanding of medical terminology, including anatomy, is also required.

How do I become a Hospital Facility Coder?

Training in coding skills is available at many community colleges and through online learning centers. Most training programs can be completed in 18 to 24 months.

To become certified, you must pass an examination administered by AAPC. Coders with less than two years' experience receive a CPC-A (apprentice) designation until their experience is complete. AAPC offers examinations that test your knowledge of coding for physician offices (CPC), outpatient facilities (CPC-H) or payers (CPC-P).

Because coding is based on the nature of the medical services provided, certification is becoming available for specific medical specialties, including evaluation and management, general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology. Continuing education is required to maintain certified status.

Related job titles: Hospital Facility Coding Specialist, Medical Coding Assistant, Medical Billing Specialist, Medical Insurance Coding Specialist

Salary Range: According to the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC), coders earn an average of $35,000 to $50,000 per year. Coders with specialty credentials tend to be on the higher end of that scale and can earn substantially more based on experience and specialty (averaging a little less than $55,000 per year).

According to AAPC, certified coders earn 21% more than non-certified coders. Many employers now require certification for newly hired coders.

AAPC publishes an annual salary survey.

Information Source

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