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Carrington College Blog

What is medical coding?

August 22, 2013

What is medical billing and CodingHealth care is a wide and varied field that encompasses everything from physical therapy to nursing and medical assisting. If you are detail-oriented and analytical, you may want to consider entering a medical billing and coding program to become a part of this invaluable career within the field of health care.1

What is a medical coding?

Medical coding is the process by which numeric values are assigned to medical diagnoses, signs and symptoms of diseases or the adverse effects of drugs, ill-defined medical conditions, and procedures and surgeries. These coding systems are an integral part of collecting and measuring medical statistical data, and also assist with physician reimbursement and hospital payments.Currently, medical coders use the ICD-9-CM coding system. However, this is being updated in October 2014.3

How does it differ from medical billing?

While coding is a key step in the medical billing process, the two should not be confused. Medical coders take information from documents about patient care provided by medical professionals, assign the appropriate codes and create a claim to be paid. Medical coders must check a variety of sources to ensure that this is done correctly, including the patient’s medical records. While medical coders may also be responsible for the actual hospital billing, coding is not the same as billing.4

What education do I need?

To begin a career in medical coding, you will need a solid understanding of medical terminology, physiology and anatomy.5 It is recommended that you complete a medical coding program and become a Registered Health Information Technician or Certified Professional Coder by taking the appropriate exams. Your education should also include the opportunity to apply your skills, gaining on-the-job experience through an externship.6

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Medical Records and Health Information Technicians,’ Aug. 7, 2012 –
American Hospital Association, ‘The Importance of Coding,’ 2013 –
3 AlliedHealthSchools, ‘Developments in the Current Medical Billing System,’ 2013 –
4 AAPC, ‘What is Medical Coding?’ 2013 –
5 AAPC, ‘What is Medical Coding?’ 2013 –
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Medical Records and Health Information Technicians,’ Aug. 7, 2012 –