An inpatient hospital coder is a medical coder that work to assign codes to medical diagnoses and treatments for inpatient facilities. Inpatient facilities are medical facilities that accommodate patients that need more extensive care, usually involving stays over 24 hours or overnight stays. Hospitals are the most common types of inpatient facilities, but other inpatient facilities include nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
Inpatient coding is typically much more involved than outpatient coding. Instead of simply coding a few medical services and procedures that occur during an outpatient stay, inpatient coders must perform coding services for every day a patient stays in the facility.
Hospital inpatient coders also primarily use International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes, whereas outpatient coders primarily use Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. ICD codes are designed to describe a patient’s diagnoses or medical conditions. Inpatient coders must also be familiar with Diagnosis-related Group (DRG) coding as well.
Although an inpatient coding career can be hectic and stressful at times, due to the amount of work involved, it can also be quite rewarding. Besides a regular steady schedule, inpatient coders can also enjoy decent salaries and benefits, including health insurance and retirement plans. Also, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the growth rate for medical coders is expected to grow faster than usual, qualified coders won’t have many issues finding employment.
Duties and Responsibilities
A day in the life of an inpatient coder is often fast-paced and hectic.
Inpatient coders are responsible for reviewing paper or electronic patient charts and physician notes. They will then determine and assign the proper and most accurate medical codes for diagnoses and procedures. Accuracy is extremely important in medical coding. To ensure accuracy, inpatient coders may also need to speak with physicians and nurses to clarify some patient information.
As a hospital inpatient coder, you will work in an office environment in an inpatient facility, such as a hospital. Although you may not have any direct contact with patients, you will often need to communicate daily with physicians, nurses, and other hospital staff. You may also be responsible for additional office tasks and clerical duties.
Necessary Skills, Education, and Experience
Being an inpatient medical coder requires a number of special skills. For instance, since medical coders use specialized computer programs to complete their jobs, you should be computer literate and able to keep up with the latest technological developments. You should also have excellent interpersonal skills, as well as written and verbal communication skills.
To become an inpatient hospital coder, you will also need a high school diploma and specialized training in medical coding. Medical coding diploma programs typically take a few months to complete, but may not be enough to secure a medical coding position in an inpatient facility such as a hospital. A two year associate degree program in medical coding or health information, on the other hand, is often a more acceptable coding education.
Employers, like hospitals, will also usually require perspective applicants to be certified. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers hospital-based Certified Coding Specialist (CCS-H), Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credentials. Some employers may also offer some on-the-job training as well.
Depending on the employer, coding experience may also be required. usually, hospitals prefer to hire applicants with a year or more of experience, but some may make exceptions.
Tips for Getting a Job as a Hospital Inpatient Coder
When you start searching for a job as a hospital inpatient coder, arm yourself with a quality resume. Make sure it lists all of your necessary contact information, along with your pertinent skills, education, experience, and employment history. You may want to consider hiring a professional to craft your resume or take a course in resume writing for the best results.
Hospital inpatient coding positions are often advertised in newspaper and online job boards. You can also send your resume and a cover letter to your local hospitals. Letters of recommendation from professional references can also go a long way when trying to land an inpatient coding position at a hospital.
Because of the extensive work involved in inpatient coding, many hospitals will require new hires to have some experience. If you’re fresh out of college, however, gaining experience can be somewhat difficult. To gain experience in this area, you can complete an internship, work as an independent contractor, or even work in an outpatient facility.