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The Future of Medical Coding

Medical coding is hardly a new phenomenon – however it does have the ability to help cut health care costs, improve public health, and much more if implemented on a widespread level. Currently, it’s predicted Americans (government and private individuals included) spend a total of $750 billion on unnecessary health care costs. This needless charging and spending comes from unnecessary services, missed prevention opportunities, excessive administrative costs, prices that are too high for certain services, fraud, and much more. Medical coding is one way to cut back on these health care cost issues.

Medical coding is done by educated professionals. The process involves using doctor’s notes, diagnosis, insurance information, and more and transcribing the written information into a series of codes which can be easily shared (with approved parties), searched, recorded, and more. Medical coding can help ensure more accurate information shared between health care providers, more efficient insurance billing to avoid overcharging, and more. Also, medical coding has the ability to streamline the administrative process, reducing health care spending by $190 billion.

Medical coding will need to be used by everyone in order to be the most effective. However, switching to the system does improve efficiency on an individual provider level. At this point, there are several different medical coding “languages.” The most popular one is the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD). Health care professionals are currently using the 10th version of this classification system but the 11th one is already in development. ICD is used by all kinds of health care workers from physicians to nurses, health IT workers to researchers and beyond. The 10th version of the ICD is made up of 155,000 different codes for different diagnosis. It’s available in 43 languages and was created by the World Health Organization. As more and more health care professionals switch to the ICD system, diseases around the world are being recorded. This information can be tapped to determine if there are new diseases spreading rapidly that physicians need to keep an eye on in their area.

Another popular coding language is Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS). (This HCPCS is often pronounced by the acronym as hicks-picks). This classification is developed by the American Medical Association. There are three levels of the code starting with Current Procedural Terminology, then non-physician services such as ambulance or prosthetic devices, and lastly level III codes are for insurers. HCPCS is used for Medicare and Medicaid contractors which makes it a pretty popular classification system.
Health care coding is also creating a growing job sector for people with the skills and education to become coders. Many universities and colleges are offering health care coding degree programs and certification for students and professionals interested in changing fields. Some of these courses are even offered online so people can balance a full time job while getting their new degree. Salaries for new employees start around $34,500 and go up to $69,000 for coders with significant experience who become instructors or consultants.