Can Medical Coding be Self Taught?

With so much information available online and various tutorials on an entire range of subjects, you could potentially teach yourself almost anything. For example, if you want to learn how to play the guitar, you simply need to buy the instrument and then head to YouTube, where you will find thousands of videos with instructions on how to play the various chords and tunes. The videos will increase in difficulty, so that you can progress at a suitable pace.

But what about things like medical coding? Is this something you could learn yourself? Well, with online databases such as those at Find-A-Code, it would certainly be easier to get to grips with the thousands of codes used in this job. But while some believe that you can teach yourself to do anything, there are others who think that learning medical coding without training is much easier to master for those with a basic knowledge of medical terminology.

What Do You Need to Know to be a Medical Coder?

The job of the medical coder is to translate information from patient files into medical codes. Nevertheless, there is more than one type of coding structure used. CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes are five characters in length and are either numeric or alphanumeric. They are used for various medical services and procedures and are split into different categories.

ICD-10 and ICD-11 codes are used to classify diagnoses, symptoms, and procedures. ICD (International Classification of Diseases) codes were introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO), and while ICD-10 codes are still in use, the updated ICD-11 codes that came into effect in January 2022 are being slowly introduced in countries throughout the world to make the coding process easier. ICD codes are the universal language within the medical profession for identifying diseases and health conditions.

The first character of an ICD-10 code is always an alpha character, while the second and third are numeric. The following four to seven characters can be a combination of both. ICD codes have been updated with the introduction of ICD-11, which is meant to simplify the process. Arabic numbers will now be used instead of Roman numerals for chapters, and categories now have a minimum of four characters with two levels of subcategory. To distinguish ICD-11 from ICD-10, the second character must always be an alpha character. The letters I and O are no longer used to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 and 0.

HCPC (Health Care and Professions Council) codes are used to classify medical procedures, products, supplies, and services. These alphanumeric codes are mainly used to identify non-physician services such as prosthetic devices and ambulance services.

Medical coders also need to be familiar with medical terminology and have an understanding of pharmacology, physiology, and anatomy, as this will make it easier to find the correct codes.

Is it Better to Complete a Certification Program?

While it is theoretically possible to teach yourself how to be a medical coder, it is probably best if you undertake some kind of training and get certified. This will ensure you are learning how to use the various classification systems properly and that you have a qualification that will make you a more attractive prospect for employers.

The good news is that you don’t need to attend a college or other educational institute to become a medical coder. There are various courses online; you could get certified in less than a year.

To conclude, medical coding can be self-taught but most in the industry agree that it is better to complete a training program if you want to increase your chances of working as a medical coder.

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