There are many options in medical coding careers, so it's vital to educate yourself before jumping in to any of the possibilities.
By Kim Felix, RHIA, CCS, AHIMA Certified ICD-10 Trainer
Director of Education, Coding/HIM Consulting/EMR Abstraction Division, IOD Incorporated, Green Bay, WI
Nowadays, it seems as though you need experience to get a job, yet how do you get that experience if you cannot get your foot in the door to begin with?
How to Get That All-Important Experience for All Medical Coding Careers
If you are fortunate enough to find a HIM department or coding consulting company that will actually train you with ‘live’ medical records--you are in luck.
One recommendation is to ‘volunteer’ your time in an HIM department and ask if you can review previously coded records, and re-code them yourself. This requires no extra time on the part of the HIM staff but you are ‘self-teaching’ yourself to code in the real world.
Once you have gotten some of that experience under your belt, it is best to try to get a coding job in an HIM department. This is usually the best route for most inexperienced coders. After at least 1 year of coding in the field, now is the time to take your CCS (Certified Coding Specialist) exam.
Once you have your CCS credential, now you can start broadening your career and perhaps climb the ladder in your own institution. Many large facilities have ‘Lead Coders’ who might be mentors to beginning coders.
The role of coding supervisor in an HIM department is another option. Coding supervisors manage the day-to-day operations of coding, including auditing, DNFB (discharges not final billed) monitoring, and assisting the Billing office with any coding/billing issues that arise. Many coding supervisors are also liasions to other departments within the institution such as Risk Management, Quality Management, and Finance.
Perhaps you have your Associate’s Degree and RHIT (Registered Health Information Technician) but would like to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree and RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator). Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement, so that means no money out of your own pocket and you further your career and beef up your resume.
Consulting Offers Another Option in Medical Coding Careers
Having a few years of experience in an HIM department as a coder and/or coding supervisor, you may be ready to branch out into the consulting world. Typically, coding consultants are expected to have several years of coding experience and at least a CCS credential.
The benefit of being a consultant is that you get to go from hospital to hospital and therefore broaden and perfect your coding skills. You make yourself very marketable if you have coded everything from small, community hospital charts to those of large, tertiary, teaching hospitals.
Teaching is Another Option in Medical Coding Careers
If after years of consulting, you have the ‘bug’ for education, pursuing a career in teaching coding is yet another option. There is nothing more rewarding than passing along your years of coding knowledge to a whole new generation.
So, is coding the right career path for you?