Accreditation is the initial need for working as a medical coder. Although there are several options for medical coding certification, just two are widely accepted by companies nationwide. The “Certified Professional Coder” (abbreviated “CPC”) and “Certified Coding Specialist” (abbreviated “CCS”) are two such credentials.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) grants the CCS certificate, while the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) gives the CPC credential. Either of these credentials requires candidates to take a 5- or 6-hour exam administered by the corresponding organization.
Several factors, including career goals and work experience, influence the medical coding credential an individual chooses to pursue. The AAPC’s CPC certification is the gold standard for the “professional” side of the coding industry. People with this credential are in demand by doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals’ emergency rooms, and other outpatient facilities. The “facility” side of coding is where the AHIMA CCS certification shines. Hospitals sought out people holding this certification for in-patient coding positions.
It is highly recommended (but not needed) that a coding education be taken after selecting a certificate. There is a wide range of depth and breadth in medical coding courses. Vocational schools and community colleges typically only provide “introductory” medical coding classes. These programs were developed to provide foundational education for those joining the medical sector in different capacities (such as registered nurses or medical assistants). If you’re unsure if a medical coding career is for you, taking an introductory course is an excellent option. But if you’re sure that medical coding is your calling, you should enroll in a more comprehensive program.
Remember that if a medical coding program does not prepare you for the CPC or CCS, you may have trouble obtaining work and be recognized after completing the program. All three medical coding books should be a part of any comprehensive training. The HCPCS book is often neglected in favor of the more popular ICD-9-CM and CPT coding manuals. The course should be at least 80 contact hours long, include timed exams at regular intervals, and cover only the most fundamental aspects of the billing cycle.
After finishing your coursework, you can apply for membership in the AAPC or AHIMA and request an exam application from either organization. You can add “CPC” or “CCS” to your resume if you do well on the test.
Finding an entry-level medical coding position will be the next step in your career because most remote organizations want two to three years of experience. There is no substitute for actual hands-on experience and training in the workplace. Finding your first job after graduating college is a daunting task for many. The front desk or the medical records department are common entry points for new coders. To go where you want to go, it may be necessary to start at the bottom. An unpaid externship (like the one offered by the AAPC’s Project Extern) is another viable option for gaining coding experience. In addition to numerous job leads and helpful advice, frequenting the AHIMA and AAPC forums and local chapter meetings is highly recommended. If you can get beyond the challenge of landing your first job, you’ll be set up for success for the rest of your career.
With two to three years of medical coding expertise, you’ll have many job options, including remote-friendly options. Independent contracting is the norm rather than the exception for medical coding jobs that may be done from home. This means that you are not an employee on an hourly basis but rather a “self-employed” person who receives payment based on the number of records you classify (in this example, medical records).
Accuracy and speed are the two most essential factors in determining how much money a medical coder can make while working from home. Most at-home medical coders are compensated per chart, so those who can code quickly will earn more. However, most organizations that employ remote medical coders know this, so they have strict accuracy rates that coders must meet. The charts the coder has completed are audited at random. The medical coder’s contract will be canceled if the charts don’t meet the company’s accuracy standards (usually between 94% and 98%).
Details such as the number of charts to be coded per day, week, or month; the rate of pay per chart; and the required rate of correctness are standard in most contracts. Companies, coding specialties, and coding settings all play a role in the fee range. We’ll take the field of professional coding, known as emergency medicine, as an illustration.
Companies often require emergency medicine coders to work at a rate of 25 charts per hour with a minimum of 96% accuracy.6575 cents a sheet. These figures suggest the following types of work could be performed under a contract:
If an employee is paid $25 per chart and works a regular 40-hour workweek, he or she can expect to contract 1,000 charts in a week (or 500 charts in a part-time capacity). If you coded 1,000 charts per week at $.75 apiece, you’d earn $750.00 per week ($1,500.00 biweekly or $3,000.00 monthly). According to these calculations, an individual’s hourly wage would be $18.75.
While these figures are respectable, try paying a coder who can reliably code 40 charts per hour for the same amount of.75 per chart. Averaging $40 per hour would result in a weekly take-home pay of $1600 ($320 every two weeks or $6400 per month). In this scenario, someone can sign a full-time contract, work fewer than 40 hours per week, and yet be paid the full-time rate.
While it’s true that you can pursue such a goal, it’s also crucial to remember that this is not the “get rich quick” career path that some may lead you to believe. Working from home as a medical coder requires dedication and hard work. Still, the rewards of working in a rewarding career from the comfort of your own home are worth the initial investment in training and the willingness to begin at the bottom.
I have been working in the medical billing and coding industry for ten years; I am a home-based ER coder; I am a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and a Certified Professional Coder Hospital (CPC-H); I am the founder and president of the AAPC Norwalk Chapter; I teach and tutor in the field of medical billing and coding, and I am the creator of the educational website.