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Are Medical Codes Difficult to Learn?

Published: March 15, 2023
 

If you’ve thought about a career in Medical Billing and Coding, you may have asked yourself, “How hard is it to learn all those medical codes?” There are tens of thousands of codes, after all. It might sound scary, but it’s not as hard to learn medical codes as you might think. Even better, you don’t need to memorize them all.

What Does a Medical Coder Do?

Before digging into why learning medical codes doesn’t have to be intimidating, it’s helpful to understand a Medical Coder’s role. Medical Coders work at healthcare facilities like hospitals, doctor’s offices, behavioral health centers, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics.

Think of a Medical Coder as a bridge between the doctor, the patient, and the insurance company. When you go to the doctor, they create a medical record that includes your diagnosis, any procedures you might have, and any services you got.

Medical Coders turn that information into a series of letters and numbers—a code—that insurance companies then use to determine how much reimbursement the healthcare facility gets and how much you need to pay out of pocket.

What Codes Does a Medical Coder Use?

The most common codes you would use as a Medical Coder are ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, and CPT codes. You might also hear about ICD-11, but it is not in use in the United States yet. ICD-10 stands for International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision. CPT stands for Current Procedural Terminology.

CPT and ICD-10-PCS codes report the services the patient received. The main difference is that ICD-10-PCS codes are only for the inpatient hospital setting. ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes explain the patient’s diagnoses that justify the services received.

How Does a Medical Coder Learn Thousands of Codes?

Don’t worry, there’s a way to learn a whole lot of codes and plenty of cheat-sheets for those you don’t memorize. First of all, the numbers correspond to different procedures. So if you know that numbers 10004 to 69990 mean surgery, you know anything with that code is surgical. And if you see the prefix number 150, you know at a glance it’s something that has to do with the heart. But most Medical Coders use coding software that is a big help. There are also medical coding books to help you find the codes you need. And some codes are very common, so you’ll know those by heart after you gain experience.

To become a Medical Coder, you can earn an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Billing and Coding. The courses you take will introduce you to all those codes and teach you about healthcare delivery systems, medical terminology, computerized billing and coding, medical insurance processing, and more. You become familiar with the software used by Medical Coders, receive an introduction to ICD-10, and learn how to code diagnostic and professional services the physician provides You learn basic medical terms and come to understand the types of health issues you’ll need to code into a medical record. That gives you the foundation to speak the same language as other medical professionals.

Are you ready to pursue a career in health care as a Medical Coder? Register for an A.A.S. In Medical Billing and Coding at Charter College. You can get started in a rewarding healthcare career in as little as 15 months. If you’ve already completed significant coursework in this or a related field, our degree completion program could be an option for you. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.