Evaluation & Management Coding: Career Options & Job Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an evaluation and management coder. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job options and outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

In order for a hospital or medical clinic to receive payment from health insurance, a number of medical records must be compared, examined, and calculated, which is often the job of an evaluation and management (EM) coder. These professionals usually hold associate's degrees and credentials are available from several organizations.

Essential Information

EM coders select billing codes based on a patient's health records. While these professionals do not generally interact directly with patients, they play an important role in the healthcare system. They must be able to analyze and understand physicians' documentation and medical terminology to select the most appropriate code. Accurate coding ensures proper charges to the patient or insurance company for services rendered.

Required Education Associate's degree
Other Requirements Voluntary certification preferred by employers
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 15% for medical records and health information technicians
Median Salary* (2015) $37,110 annually for medical records and health information technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Evaluation and Management Coding Career Options

Evaluation and management coders may work as medical records and health information technicians who specialize as medical coders and coding specialists. These workers typically work in administrative settings at a physician's office, hospital, or other healthcare facility. Some may also work for government agencies. Medical coders are usually offered full-time office work away from direct patient contact.

Educational Requirements

Employers in the coding field generally require at least an associate's degree in health information technology. This degree program typically covers topics such as communications, math, data and office management, health sciences, and coding procedures. Understanding standard medical coding systems, such as Current Procedural Terminology, International Classification of Diseases - Clinical Modification, and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System coding, may be required. Earning a bachelor's or master's degree in health information management might improve a medical coder's chances for obtaining employment in specialty positions, such as evaluation and management coding, although specialties usually rely on experience.

Career Requirements

Preferred but not required, earning certification in the medical coding and health information technology field can provide better opportunities for career advancement. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) administers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam to graduates or students in their final term of their degree program. According to AHIMA, those who pass the 3.5 hour-long exam and earn the credential show they hold a specialty in coding and demonstrate an ability to work with computers in providing accurate, efficient data management.

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) has many coding credentials for members and experienced coders. Some options include the Certified Evaluation and Management Coder (CEMC) and Certified Professional Coder (CPC). The CEMC exam focuses on such evaluation and management coding duties as time-based coding, risk assessment and Medicare billing regulations. Though no specific education is formally required, two years of experience is highly recommended. CPC candidates are required to have at least two years of coding experience, but having an associate degree is also recommended. The exam tests a coder's knowledge and proficiency in standard coding systems, industry regulations and health sciences. According to AAPC, coders with credentials can earn 20% more than those without credentials.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2015 that the median annual salary earned by medical records and health information technicians was $37,110. Those technicians working for miscellaneous professional, scientific, and technical services earned the highest mean wage of $52,940 that year, per BLS. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for medical records and health information technicians was expected to increase by 15% from 2014 to 2024.

Most EM coders work at clinics or hospitals, applying insurance codes to medical bills. Most hold associate's degrees, and, with experience, can earn professional certification that may result in a higher salary. Jobs in this field are projected to grow by 15% from 2014 through 2024, and the median salary in 2015 was about $37,000.

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