A Day in the Life of a Medical Coder

Picturing yourself in a new career can give you the motivation you need to get started

If you are considering Medical Billing and Coding training, you may be wondering what life will be like once you get into the workforce. What would a work day look like for a medical coder? What are the pros and the cons of this career choice? How is the work environment? To answer these questions, we invite you to join us as we peer into a medical coder’s typical day on the job.

The start of your day

Most coders start their day by sitting down at their desks and logging into the software system to see what tasks have arrived overnight. You will have a list of charts that you need to review. The charts will show diagnoses that have been made and procedures that have been performed. It will be your job to assign codes to the diagnoses and procedures.

You will learn two major coding systems in your medical billing and coding training program: The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT). Using these systems, you will go through each chart step-by-step to enter the correct codes.

Being accurate about your coding is very important. These codes ensure that your employer is paid for the services they provided. An incorrect code can result in an insurance company or Medicare not paying for the service that was provided.

The easy ones and the hard ones

Many of the charts you review will be very straightforward. They will have common diagnoses and common procedures that you immediately know how to code accurately. For these, you will simply enter the codes into the software system, check a few other details, and move onto the next chart.

But most days, you will also come across trickier cases. There may be a procedure or diagnosis that you aren’t familiar with. You will need to spend time researching and deciding which are the best codes for this chart.

Other times you might notice that documentation is missing from the chart. A doctor may have recommended that an x-ray be taken, yet there is no documentation in the chart that the x-ray actually happened. You will need to email the doctor’s medical administrative assistant to get the needed documentation.

The trickier cases can sometimes be frustrating, but it can also be satisfying to “solve” a difficult coding question. Many coders feel that coding can be like detective work. They enjoy doing the research and learning something new. With the ICD-10 system, there are over 68,000 codes, which means that you want to be sure you have the most accurate code for the diagnosis that is given.

Your work station

The set-up of your work station will depend on your employer. Most people work at a cubicle or shared desk. It’s very helpful if you have two monitors, so that you can keep the patient charts open on one monitor, while you use the other one for research and coding systems.

The work environment can be demanding, because you will be expected to complete a certain number of charts per hour or per day. Depending on your employer and the department you are working for, your target could be as low as 60 charts per day for more complicated procedures, to as high as 120 charts per day for simpler charts. You will be expected to work efficiently and keep your focus.

Your co-workers

The number of fellow medical coders you work with depends on the type of job you get. If you accept a job in a major hospital system, you will be working alongside dozens of other medical coders. In a hospital, there are many hundreds of charts that need to be reviewed every day, and it requires a team of coders. Working with a team is a great benefit when you come across a problem in a chart. Others with more experience may be able to help you and teach you what to do.

On the other hand, smaller offices like private medical offices also hire medical coders. In these cases, you might be the only coder, but you may enjoy the opportunity to get to know other office staff as well as the regular patients.

We hope this article gives you a clearer picture of life as a Medical Coder. Best of luck in your new career field!

This article is part of the Branford Hall Career Institute’s weekly blog. If you are interested in learning about the Medical Billing and Coding/Health Claims Specialist program at Branford Hall, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. With campuses located across Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, we hope you can find one near you!