Radiology coding is a process where an individual makes sure all procedures performed in a radiology facility are billed correctly to the patient or an insurance company. Procedures are identified by CPT (current procedural terminology) and ICD-9 (international classification of diseases) codes to push insurance claims though quicker and easier. Most of the time, businesses look for individuals with experience in radiology billing or other medical billing and coding experience, but there are those who will train new individuals who have some medical knowledge.
Coding information makes retrieving information about a patient easier on a hospital or clinic. As healthcare records are created every time an individual sees her doctor, the amount of "extra" paperwork can become overwhelming, and coding helps with the organization of those records.
CPT codes are 5 digit numeric codes that describe everything involved in the medical field, from procedures to medication. Beginning at 00100 and ending at 99499, there are approximately 7,800 CPT codes.
ICD-9 codes are used to identify diseases, injuries and symptoms displayed by the patient.
The codes coincide together as the CPT code shows the diagnosis to the ICD-9 code, allowing insurance companies to determine reimbursement and to make sure that the correct procedure was performed for the patient.
Radiology coders must be certified as a CPC (Certified Professional Coder), CBCS (Certified Billing and Coding Specialist) or CMAA (Certified Medical Administrative Assistant). To become certified, an individual must attend a class on coding at a local or online college that offers AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) approved curriculum.
It is important that coders continue to refresh their studies, as medical coding continuously changes and becomes more advanced. This will allow them to stay current in the coding procedure, and therefore, help maximize the reimbursements from insurance companies.
Coders must be able to process codes quickly and efficiently in order to meet facility deadlines provided by the hospital or clinic. In order to properly complete the process, a coder must go through several steps to ensure accuracy (by thoroughly reading medical charts, verifying signatures and data, and clarifying any information that cannot be coded to insurance companies and clinics). It is important that coders pay close attention and copy all procedures and symptoms into codes, to ensure accuracy in both payment and in future procedures.
This job can be accomplished through a telecommuting position if hospitals and clinics are willing to send out information to telecommuters. In some cases, where telecommuting is allowed, the clinic will state which hours the coder must work, and they will give her between 50-100 charts to complete during her shift.
Coders must be skilled and very accurate to ensure the right information is provided as to prevent any legal issues that may arise out from either patients or insurance companies. Coding is a very important part of the medical field when it is done correctly and saves a lot of time for insurance processors and medical personnel.
The hospital or clinic sends the coder the charts either through faxing them or through email. After completing the order, the coder will send a copy back to the clinic and occasionally will be responsible for contacting insurance companies as well.
The average salary of a radiology coder is $32,000 a year. Salary is based both on experience level and amount of work given to the coder.
Though there are many jobs available online, a prospective coder could also look at local hospitals and clinics to see if they are hiring for coders. The benefit of working locally would be that she could meet with her supervisor face to face if necessary.
Pros and Cons
Though the actual work is simple to do, there are a lot of codes to go through and the coder must be very careful not to make any errors. Additionally, many times hospitals do ask the coder take a specific shift, so even though the coder is working from home, they don't get to decide when they work. Information has to be completed by the coder with very little help from anyone else, which could be difficult in an at-home situation.
Coding is a good job for people who want steady work and are good with detail.