FAQs - Medical Coding Specialist Certificate (Credit)

Q: What is medical coding?

A: Medical coding is a process by which clinical documentation in health records is analyzed; from this, medical coders identify reportable diagnoses and procedures. These reportable diagnoses and procedures are assigned codes to classify complex data in a classification system. There are various uses of medical codes, to include reporting these codes to insurance companies and other payers so that healthcare organizations and providers are reimbursed for services provided to patients.

Q: What is the Medical Coding Certificate program offered in the continuing education department at JCCC? Is it different from the Medical Coding Specialist Certificate described on this website?

A: Yes, the two programs are different. The Medical Coding Certificate program offered in continuing education is a non-credit program designed for experienced physician office coders who need to prepare for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credentialing exam. Potential students with physician office coding experience are best suited for the Medical Coding Certificate program offered in the continuing education department.

Q: Are there aspects of medical coding that the public generally misunderstands?

A: Yes. A common falsehood is that medical coders all work from home. This is not true. As coders advance in their careers, there are often opportunities to work from home. However, students should not enter into this profession with the assumption they will work from home as new graduates. It is a big investment for organizations to send employees home to work; in addition, medical coding is highly regulated and healthcare organizations are subject to criminal, civil, and monetary consequences as a result of fraud and abuse in the coding and/or billing process. Therefore, working from home is usually a privilege after a coder has proven their expertise.

Another falsehood is that medical coding certificate programs are easy. To prepare for a career in medical coding, students must take challenging courses in domains such as biomedical sciences, healthcare delivery systems, coding and reimbursement, information technology, and health record science. 

Another misunderstood aspect is the distinction between coding and billing. People often discuss the two synonymously. In fact, coding and billing are two separate and distinct functions in healthcare. In hospitals, for example, coders code charts and a separate department manages the billing process. In physician offices, however, a coder may wear both hats – that of a coder and biller. In general, it should be understood that coding and billing are distinct functions in the reimbursement process, and students should not lump them into singular definition.

Q: What type of pay should a medical coder expect?

A: This varies based on many factors. View the most current AHIMA salary survey (PDF), which includes information on earnings in medical coding.

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