What is the role of a medical coder? A simple explanation

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, one out of every five people will be in retirement age or older. Due to an aging population, the healthcare sector will be one of the fastest-growing industries in the coming years. While this will mean a need for more nurses and doctors, those are not the only healthcare careers. If you want to enter the medical field but the sight of blood is too much for you, becoming a medical coder may be a suitable option for you.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the role of a medical coder, to help you decide if this career is for you. Here are the contents involved:

  1. What is a medical coder?
  2. What is the difference between medical coding and medical billing?
  3. Which skills are required to become a medical coder?
  4. What are the tasks of a medical coder?
  5. What are some qualities of successful medical coders?
  6. Where do medical coders work?
  7. How much would you earn as a medical coder?
  8. What is the employment outcome for medical coders?
  9. How do you become a medical coder?
  10. What are the requirements to work as a medical coder in the UAE?
  11. How can Connect Health help you find a job as a medical coder in the UAE?

1. What is a medical coder?

Medical coders are, in essence, professionals responsible for reviewing medical documentation and translating it into universal codes required by insurance firms. These healthcare professionals work behind the scenes in a variety of settings, to make sure all pertinent information is coded correctly to ensure consistency and accuracy.

After a medical provider treats a patient, the insurance firm or government provider needs to understand what was done to the patient in order to process the bill. Common language is too inefficient and inexact to give the insurance firm the accurate details it needs, so a set of specific codes is used to define medical procedures.

It is the role of the medical coder to pass along this information in a way that is useful and efficient. Everything that happens with the patient is reviewed, translated, and coded. This usually includes things like tests for diagnosis, treatments, and supplies used. The coder also indicates if there were any unusual circumstances during the patient’s visit or procedure.

2. What is the difference between medical coding and medical billing?

Although people often talk about medical coding and medical billing in the same breath, they are actually two different occupations. Medical billers are in charge of submitting claims to insurance companies or other payers in an accurate and timely manner, while medical coders review medical files and translate them into codes for reimbursement.

Medical coding is similar in that it is also related to revenue cycles and the financial health of healthcare organizations. The position demands more in-depth knowledge and responsibilities, though. Medical billing requires much less education, in many cases, someone with just a high school diploma can become a medical biller. On the other hand, you will need additional education and, often, a credential or certificate to find a job as a medical coder.

2.1. Can one person fulfill both positions?

Most of the time, different employees fulfill the coding and billing tasks. That said, in some cases, it is possible for someone to operate as a biller and a coder. Small organizations, such as small clinics or standalone physician’s offices, might combine the medical coding and billing positions. Some places that have a smaller pool from which to hire healthcare professionals, such as rural communities, may also prefer candidates who can fulfill both job descriptions.

On the other hand, larger organizations such as hospitals and big clinics, usually keep these positions separate.  Since billers are typically paid less than coders, the division of labor makes sense from the organization’s point of view.

3. Which skills are required to become a medical coder?

There are a handful of skills that will help you thrive as a medical coder. We used job analysis software to examine more than 40,000 Medical coding jobs posted in the last two years. This information helped us highlight the most important ones

3.1. Top technical skills for medical coders

According to the data, the most important technical skills for a medical coder are medical coding, customer billing, ICD-10, CPT coding, health information technology, HCPCS coding, anatomy and physiology, clinical documentation, inpatient coding, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance.

3.2. Top transferable skills

On the other side, the top transferable skills are communication, research, computer literacy, Microsoft Office, teamwork, organization, multi-tasking, analytical skills, problem-solving, and time management.

If you have some of those transferable skills, you might be a natural fit for medical coding. And do not be intimidated by the technical skills, those are the skills you will acquire with formal education.

4. What are the tasks of a medical coder?

A medical coder usually performs the same duties no matter where they work. Here is a list of some of the tasks that a medical coder performs on a daily basis:

  • Review medical files and translate notes into medical hardware codes, diagnosis codes, and treatment and services codes.
  • Correspond with government providers and insurance firms or other payers.
  • Communicate with medical providers to confirm or get details if needed
  • Examine documents for missing information.
  • Assign HCPCS, CPT, ICD-10-CM, and ASA codes.
  • Assign APC and DRG codes.
  • Ensure documents are free from typing errors.

Although the word “code” is in the career title, medical coders do not create algorithms nor write code for computer programming. They also do not keep medical records or have anything to do with the confidentiality and safety of patient information stored digitally.

5. What are some qualities of successful medical coders?

There is no “typical” prototype when we talk about medical coders. You will find people of all personalities, ages, and experiences. But usually, great medical coders do have some common characteristics that help them in their occupation. One necessary trait is a strong moral standard because the patient’s data is highly confidential.

Medical coders must also be detail-oriented people. One tiny mistake in a code could lead to larger economic issues. They also must be able to maintain focus because their work is rather repetitive, yet very important. Additionally, it helps to be efficient and perfectionist, as their work is usually tied to meeting production and accuracy-based goals.

6. Where do medical coders work?

You may assume medical coders work in hospitals, and that is true, but there are several other settings where medical coders work. These professionals can be employed anywhere that provides medical care, this includes clinics, hospitals, urgent care facilities, physician’s offices, nursing homes, treatment centers, and more.

Some insurance companies also hire medical coders to handle patient claims from the other side of the table, verify the accuracy of incoming claims and identify billing fraud.

One big advantage that medical coding has over any other medical field job, is the option to work from home. That said, it is a huge misconception that you can go straight from a medical coding program to a work-from-home job. Due to the implication that you are working with highly confidential information, you first need to acquire some experience in your workplace and gain the trust of your supervisor in order to work from home.

7. How much would you earn as a medical coder?

The 2021 median annual salary for a medical coder in developed countries was $42,000. This falls a bit behind the average for all occupations. Factors such as education, experience, and work setting can contribute to a higher medical coding salary. A medical coder in the UAE earns on average AED 83,000 per year.

8. What is the employment outcome for medical coders?

Most medical field careers are growing rapidly, especially in the UAE, mainly due to an aging population requiring regular medical care, the advancements in technology improving the healthcare sector, and a continuous increase in the number of healthcare centers.

Medical coding is not the exception to the rule. The employment of medical coders is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations, making it a high-demand job.

9. How do you become a medical coder?

Before deciding to pursue a job as a medical coder, you should know that you will need to get some specialized education. First, you will have to learn multiple sets of medical codes. Some of these codes are:

  • The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10-CM) and The International Classification of Diseases, Procedural Coding System (ICD-10-PCS). Both include a total of 200,000 codes for diseases and surgical procedures
  • The Current Procedure Terminology (CPT). It includes 8,000 codes describing all basic medical procedures.
  • The Health Care Procedural Coding System (HCPCS). This system includes 7,000 codes that help bill insurance firms for supplies.

There are other codes you will need to learn if you wish to pursue a specialized field, for example, cancer or dentistry. Beyond the codes, you will also need to have some knowledge about medical procedures, anatomy, and physiology, not to mention all the individual insurance policies and rules.

While some employers do not mind hiring medical coders who only have a high school diploma and medical coding experience, most prefer medical coders with formal education. Normally, you will need an associate’s degree in a health-related area, but a bachelor’s degree will put you ahead of the competition. If you want to start working early this will not be a problem, due to the fact that a medical coding program can be completed in as few as eight months.

10. What are the requirements to work as a medical coder in the UAE?

In order to work as a medical coder in the UAE, you have to apply for a DHA (Dubai Health Association), MOH (Ministry of Health), or HAAD (Health Authority of Abu Dhabi) license. In order to apply for a medical coding license after studying abroad, you will need the next requirements:

  • Finish a medical coding program.
  • Have 1 year or more of experience as a medical coder.

If you are planning to get a healthcare job in Dubai, you can apply for a DHA license and take the exam online. You will need the next documents at your disposal for the application process:

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • A passport-style photo
  • Training certificates
  • A Medical coding diploma or associate degree
  • Registration certificates
  • Employment references from the places you work as a medical coder
  • Transcript of all the relevant training completed.

Once you complete the application process, you will need to take an exam. Results will be available after 5 working days. If you pass the test, you will receive an eligibility letter that will allow you to work as a medical coder in Dubai for one year.

11. How can Connect Health help you find a c as a medical coder in the UAE?

If you are looking for a medical coding position, here in Connect Health we can help you find your ideal job in the UAE. In order to apply for a medical coding position, you just need to sign up on our webpage and choose the job vacancy that seems right for you. We advise you read the job descriptions and requirements in detail before applying.

On the contrary, if you are searching for an employee, we can help you find the best talent your company deserves. We have an extensive database where you can look for the perfect candidate on our webpage. Also, you can post a job vacancy if you are looking for a very specific candidate.

Would you like to contact Connect Health to obtain more information about healthcare professionals in the UAE? You can contact us at info@connecthealth.ae or call at +971 433 166 88 to talk to one of our representatives that will gladly answer all of your questions.

If you want to submit your resume or CV, please go to thetalentpoint.com. Information sent to contact@thetalentpoint.com is not being stored.

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