Job Responsibilities in a Medical Coder Job

medical codingIf you are comfortable with office work, Medical Coding could be a good career fit for you

When you go to a doctor’s appointment and show the receptionist your insurance card or your Medicaid or Medicare card, what happens next? After you leave the office, how does the doctor get paid for the services that he or she has just provided to you?

Here’s the answer: an important process of medical billing and coding takes place behind the scenes. It is this process that ensures that insurance companies and government programs will pay the healthcare provider for their services. This article explores what it is like to be a Medical Coder.

What is Medical Billing and Coding?

Medical Coders are an important part of the healthcare payment process. They typically work in the billing department of medical offices, hospitals, long-term care homes, and other medical facilities. Most of their work is done at a desk on a computer.

Medical coding is the first step in processing a patient’s healthcare claim. It is the process of assigning the correct code to describe whatever service the patient received. The insurance companies and government programs require these codes so that they know what service was provided and how to reimburse it.

Medical Coders are trained to use two major coding systems: the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT). Using these resources, they assign the appropriate code for each service provided to the patients. For example, if the patient went to the doctor with a sore throat, and the doctor performed a strep test, there would be a specific code that would need to be entered into the patient’s record. In this case, the ICD-9 code would be 034.0, with the description being “streptococcal sore throat.”

Medical coding can become very complex and complicated, and for this reason, coders are expected to have quality job training, and to continue to advance in their understanding by taking continuing education courses. The training for medical coders typically lasts about one year, and includes learning medical terminology, insurance procedures, medical ethics and confidentiality, the ICD and CPT systems, and online data entry.

What Do Medical Coders Do?

A day in the life of a medical coder can be a busy day. Below are some of the  typical responsibilities of Medical Coders:

  • Assign codes to diagnoses and procedures, using ICD (International Classification of Diseases) and CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes.
  • Enter coding information in an online program.
  • Ensure codes are accurate and sequenced correctly in accordance with government and insurance regulations.
  • Follow up with the provider on any documentation that is insufficient or unclear.
  • Communicate with other clinical staff regarding documentation.
  • Search for information in cases where the coding is complex or unusual.
  • Maintain continuing education requirements.

If you are thinking of getting trained for a job in this career, consider some of the benefits of this type of job:

  • Working hours are typically daytime business hours.
  • The atmosphere is professional and courteous.
  • Office jobs are comfortable. Unlike outdoor jobs, or jobs that require you to stand all day, most medical coding jobs are in climate-controlled settings where you sit at a computer most of the day.
  • Some medical coders work from home. While these opportunities are limited, and you shouldn’t count on finding such a position, keep in mind that it still may be a possibility.
  • Some people like this field because it allows them to be in the healthcare field without the difficulties of shift work or working directly with patients in difficult clinical situations.

According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the field of medical billing and coding employs over 185,000 people nationwide, and that number is expected to rise. The Handbook states that “Employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

If you are interested in learning more about this field, visit the Medical Records and Health Information Technicians page of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This resource provides information about the job outlook, pay scale, typical responsibilities, and job training for medical billers and coders.


This article was provided by the Harris School of Business. The Harris School offers a Health Claims Specialist Plus program that trains students in the field of medical billing and coding. With campuses located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, the school offers a number of job training programs to students throughout the Delaware Valley. If you want to learn more, contact us today.