Jun 20, 2017 | Harrison College
The work of a medical coder is not for everyone. As with any job, medical coding can be an awesome gig if you have the right personality for it, and a less-than-awesome one if you don’t. But if you’ve been following healthcare industry headlines, you’ll know medical coders are in high demand.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 15 percent job growth outlook for medical coders through 2024, a rate much faster than for the average occupation. On top of that, the average salary for medical coders reaches over $37,000 per year. Add the potential for lots of flexible work arrangements with the fact that you don’t have to get a four-year degree first, and it’s no wonder so many people are interested in joining the medical coding profession.
But before you start counting your chickens, make sure you have what it takes. Some personalities seem to be better suited for the position. Keep reading to see if yours fits the bill.
You might make a great medical coder if …
Humans make decisions in a myriad of ways. But for some personalities, one of the biggest factors in the decision-making process is their ability to think analytically. The BLS says, “Health information technicians must be able to understand and follow medical records and diagnoses, and then decide how best to code them in a patient’s medical records.”
To do this well, you need to have a mind that can fully comprehend complex medical records and analyze the best possible way to code them. You have to gather all the information and come up with the best solution.
Questions to consider: Do you read product reviews and compare prices before making a big purchase? Are you good at communicating the important takeaways from a meeting or the biggest points of a lecture? Do you have thought-out reasons for decisions you make?
All those analytical skills won’t get you very far as a medical coder if the little details slip past you. In a profession where every word is essential for communicating the correct diagnosis, quick scans and haphazard perusals of the information can leave you prone to mistakes.
Accuracy is vital in medical coding. To thrive, you have to be the kind of person who always dots their i’s and crosses their t’s. If the nitty gritty details drive you insane, you’ll have a hard time focusing as a medical coder.
Questions to consider: Do you notice things like spelling errors and mistakes in emails, articles or texts? Does sloppy work or inattention to the little things bug you? Do you take your time when producing a piece of writing? Do you proofread?
The BLS lists integrity as the third most important characteristic in a medical coder. When you think about the people behind all the codes you are entering it makes a ton of sense.
That valuable patient data is legally protected for confidentiality. So if you thought you’d be Instagramming a hilarious code picture every now and then (ex: Burn due to water skis on fire). You might want to think again.
Questions to consider: Do you hold yourself to a high standard of morality whether or not you are likely to get caught? Does the thought of exposing a patient’s embarrassing, damaging or extremely personal health information make you cringe? Do you believe people have a right to privacy?
Despite what many think, medical coding is not a lone wolf job. While you might certainly spend most of the work day on your own (or working from home), you will still be in communication with physicians, finance personnel and other team members.
As these people are seldom in the same vicinity as you are working, you need to be comfortable making phone calls, sending emails and chatting on digital platforms. Beyond being comfortable, you also need to be competent at communicating your ideas or questions in a timely manner and listening well to avoid repeat calls.
Questions to consider: Are you comfortable speaking on the phone? Do listeners have to ask you to repeat yourself because they didn’t catch what you were saying the first time? Do you respond promptly to important emails? Are you polite and direct when communicating with people for work, or are you easily sidetracked?
Medical coders and other health information technicians spend most of their day interacting with technology—and it’s more than just knowing how to use a computer. The BLS says coding and classification software, as well as the electronic health record (EHR) system connected to your hospital or organization, are all vital parts of the job.
While many jobs include on-the-job training, a decent level of technical ability on your part is expected. If you are a fast learner when it comes to new technology, you’ll have less trouble getting into the system.
Additionally, the field of medical coding changes constantly due to technology upgrades and attempts to build faster, more efficient systems. Medical coders need to be prepared to learn new technology and new coding systems throughout their careers. The BLS writes, “once certified, technicians typically must renew their certification regularly and take continuing education courses.”
Questions to consider: Do you enjoy using technology and new available platforms? Are you able to adapt to system changes and technology upgrades in stride? Do you like experimenting with the way you use technology to get better, faster or more efficient? Do friends and family come to you for technological help?
If you answered yes to most of the above questions, you should absolutely consider becoming a medical coder. Many personalities excel in some of these specific areas, but personalities that excel at all or most of them are definitely more prepared for the medical coding field. Why not take advantage?
But just because you have a good idea of what it takes to be a medical coder doesn’t necessarily mean you know whether you will actually like the job. What do medical coders really do all day? Check out our article to find out: What Does a Medical Coder Do? A Behind-the-Scenes Look.< Back