Medical Coding: Myth vs Reality?

There are plenty of promotional brochures that want you to believe that learning to code is easy, that you can work from home, and that jobs are waiting and well paid. Unfortunately, the reality is not so simple.

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Myth #1: You can learn to code in 6 weeks
Reality: You can learn a little bit about coding in 6 weeks, but a 6-week training program without other experience or skills may not be sufficient to land that first coding job. Coding requires life-long learning and constant skills improvement. Hospital-based positions in particular require formal training with courses in health information management and various classification systems with a practical component or on-the-job experience to be proficient.

Recommendation: Understand the different types of coding jobs and match your training to the opportunities. In evaluating coder training, look for a comprehensive training program offered by professionals in the field and hands-on coding experience with realistic scenarios.

Myth #2: Coders work from home
Reality: Remote coding is becoming more popular as electronic record systems become adopted and most remote positions are staffed with experienced coders. Entry-level coders will need to obtain coding experience, most likely onsite, until they build coding proficiency and are able to work independently.

Recommendation: Coders without experience are more likely to be successful working closely with other coders and under direct supervision.

Myth #3: Medical record coders are in demand
Reality: Highly skilled credentialed coders are in demand and are well paid. New coders without work experience can have a difficult time cracking the job market and getting that first position.

Recommendation: New coders should expect to start with an entry-level position coding simple and repetitive records. On-the-job experience, coupled with continuing education throughout their career, will enable coders to move "up the ladder" in terms of record complexity and compensation. Network with other coders and explore alternative healthcare positions to begin your coding career.

In conclusion, please know that I have been in the coding profession for most of my career and I love it. The opportunity to learn a complex and intricate set of classification systems is challenging. Being able to apply this knowledge for an employer to ensure data and quality measures are accurate and that the bill for services is precise and complete is very satisfying. Coders and other Health Information Management professionals are wonderful people and building your professional network will support you throughout your career.

Pam Haney is Director of Training and Education for Libman Education and is responsible for online and instructor-led courses in medical record coding. Pam is currently developing an online Exam Review course for AAPC's new Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) and Certified Outpatient Coder (COC) credentials. Contact Pam at

by Pamela J. Haney, MS, RHIA, CPC-H, CIC, CCS

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