Medical Coding Jobs Grow as Healthcare Remains Unsettled
Coders play a broader role in reimbursement and compliance as the U.S. healthcare system reinvents itself.
Healthcare reimbursement is changing from being based on pay for service to being based on the quality and efficacy of care. New data transfer technologies, code sets, and regulations tug at the industry, forcing it to invent new ways of managing resources, from place of service to being paid. Obamacare and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) permanently alter how patient care is tracked and reimbursed. As a result, certified medical coders are finding themselves in the hub of the rapid wheel of changes.
Job Rate on the Rise
As certified medical coders become more central to the success of the effort, medical coding jobs will continue to expand.
In 2013, the federal Bureau of Labor projected job growth for coders would be 21 percent by 2020, or 27,800 more positions from 2016 to 2026. By comparison, expectations for all professions combined is 7 percent by 2026.
This projected trend reflects the broader role for medical coders and expanding opportunities. In 2007, for example, AAPC had 60,000 members and we now have more than 170,000 — a nearly three-fold growth.
As the nation slipped into recession in 2007, jobs were limited and the roles into which a credentialed coder fit were restricted by technology and the pay-for-service model. Sophisticated technology, new data tools, more stringent requirements, and expanded regulations created more jobs for medical coders.
By 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were more than 206,000 jobs for coders and other health information professionals.
Coders Roll with the Punches
In the last decade, coders have helped their employers manage a major shift from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM; aided hospitals in adopting ICD-10-PCS; assisted in the development and implementation of electronic health record systems; minimized fraud and abuse charges through auditing; trained providers on clinical documentation improvement efforts necessary to support ICD-10; accepted several new professional roles; and helped define the future of our healthcare delivery system.
For example, risk adjustment in the hospital industry generated a whole new job for medical coders who sift through medical data to find differences between patient mixes that affect health outcomes. Data is used to improve care and cut cost. Coders are finding new places in healthcare systems, reviewing documentation and auditing claims. Some help providers and facilities report quality measures while others assure compliance with HIPAA privacy regulations. Others help companies like 3M, EPIC, and Optum develop software and databases used by providers and hospitals.
Coders are finding jobs in surprising places, such as:
- Billing companies
- Law offices
- Self-insured corporations
- Military and Veterans Administration facilities
- Government agencies
- Software developers
- Consulting firms
We even know of coders who work on the road, visiting clients while enjoying a mobile lifestyle!
Filling the Coding Ranks
The industry will need 28,000 more medical coders in the next 10 years to meet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections. A quarter of AAPC’s membership is 51 or older, and more Baby Boomers are retiring each day. The jobs they leave will need to be filled as medical coders become more integral to the success of our healthcare system.
AAPC offers many online programs for certified medical coding training, including the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) credential for physician coding, credentials for inpatient and outpatient hospital coding, risk adjustment coding, and credentials for medical billing, compliance, practice management, clinical documentation improvement, and auditing. To see available training options, visit our website: https://www.aapc.com/training/.
AAPC will be there with you, ensuring you have the skills necessary to fill one of those empty seats and help meet the growing demand for healthcare business professionals.
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AAPC's annual salary survey gives a good understanding of the earning potential within the medical coding profession.
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