Medical decoders are more often referred to as medical coders, and they are responsible for transforming patient information into a shorthand code for billing and record-keeping purposes. Diploma and certificate programs cover many of the same core topics, though diploma programs often take longer to complete than certificate programs and include some general education coursework. Graduates of such vocational and community college-based programs might go on to pursue professional certifications.
Applicants to either of these programs must have a high school diploma or GED. They must also demonstrate familiarity with computer systems, keyboarding, and the English language.
Certificate and Diploma Programs in Medical Coding
Certificate programs in medical coding provide students with the exact training and skills necessary to manage the coding systems used in hospitals and healthcare facilities. The majority of these programs teach students how to use the latest International Classification of Diseases (ICD) coding systems to transform the names for medical procedures and diagnoses into shorthand code. Students enrolled in such programs also study medical terminology, coding regulations, and health information management systems. Possible courses include:
- Introduction to healthcare information management
- Medical terminology
- ICD-9-CM coding
- ICD-10-CM coding
- Basic medical science
- Medical diseases and treatments
Diplomas in medical coding are not greatly different from certificate programs in the subject. In addition to covering the basic principles and techniques behind medical coding, such programs also place higher emphasis on billing and reimbursement practices in the healthcare industry. Students also spend more time studying those regulations that govern the electronic records systems in the healthcare industry. Many such programs also include courses related to business communication and basic administrative tasks.
Classes included in a diploma program should help students become comfortable with the administrative functions and the technical side of this profession. Hands-on experiences and preparation for certification exams are typically part of the training to become a medical coder. Courses and topics covered will include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Coding procedures
- Billing and reimbursement
- Medical office procedures
- Business communication
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical records and health information technicians held approximately 208,650 jobs in the country in 2018. The median annual salary for this field was $40,350 in May 2018. The majority of these individuals worked directly for general and surgical hospitals, while others worked in physicians' offices and nursing facilities.
Students who have completed either a certificate or a diploma program in medical coding and billing are eligible to sit for a certification examination given by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The American Academy of Professional Coders and the Board of Medical Specialty Coding also both offer certification options in the field.
Students who want to become medical coders can earn either a certificate or a diploma in the field; both provide the necessary technical skills and basic medical knowledge.