Crucial to ensuring hospitals and healthcare providers get paid quickly and seamlessly by insurance companies, medical coding professionals are in high demand – Odeal D’Souza
Medical coding is the process of translating information from medical records of patients — doctors’ notes, prescriptions, laboratory tests, procedures, and diagnoses — into standardised medical alphanumeric codes for billing third-party payers such as insurance companies. Medical coders are essentially allied healthcare professionals who ensure that medical information is transmitted accurately and efficiently between healthcare providers and insurance companies.
In the new digital world, the need for maintaining electronic health records and computerised billing systems is pushing the demand for qualified medical coding professionals. According to the US Bureau of Labour and Statistics, the demand for medical coders is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2014-2024, higher than the average for all other vocations. In India too, there’s no dearth of employment opportunities for medical coding professionals as the number of people covered by medical insurance has risen from 216 million in 2014 to 288 million in 2016, and is estimated to leap forward by 15 percent every year.
According to industry estimates, India has the second largest pool of medical coders after the US with 15,000-16,000 professionals in the field. Crucial to ensuring hospitals and healthcare providers get paid quickly and seamlessly by insurance companies, medical coders are critical for the growth of the healthcare industry.
Graduates in science, nursing, biotechnology, microbiology or physiotherapy are eligible to sign up for diploma/certificate programmes in medical coding offered by institutions accredited by the US-based American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), Board of Medical Specialty Coding and Compliance (BMSC) and American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). The Academy of Medical Coders India and Institute of Good Manufacturing Practices India — both based in Delhi — also offer a six-month postgraduate diploma and three-month executive diploma courses in medical coding with the option of regular and part-time study.
Three-month CPC (certified professional coder) and COC (certified outpatient coder) courses are offered by Acusis India, Bangalore and Coimbatore; Medesun Healthcare Solutions, Hyderabad; Omega Medical Coding Academy, Bangalore, Chennai, and Trichy; Centre for Health Information Studies and Solutions, Thiruvananthapuram; and the Indian Institute of Medical Coding and Billing, New Delhi.
Pay and progression
Medical coders are employed in hospitals, health clinics, healthcare BPOs and insurance companies. A fresher can expect to earn an average salary of Rs.25,000-30,000 per month. After five-six years of experience, a medical coder is promoted to team leader (Rs.45,000) followed by manager/senior manager (Rs.60,000).
“While medical coding is in a nascent stage in India, there’s a premium on medical coders in the healthcare BPO industry servicing the US health sector. Also, as the number of people covered by medical insurance is growing rapidly in India, it is scaling up demand from hospitals for coders who can electronically maintain patients’ records and liaise with insurance companies for claims processing,” says Dr. Santosh Kumar Guptha, co-founder and CEO of the Hyderabad-based Medesun Healthcare Solutions Llc (MHSL), which offers a range of medical coding certification programmes.
A BHMS (bachelor of homeopathic medicine and surgery) graduate of Osmania University, Hyderabad, Dr. Guptha began his career in 2000 with an independent homeopathy practice. In 2004, he acquired his first certification in medical coding from AAPC. Thereafter, he worked for six years as a medical coding trainer in the US and returned to India in 2009 to promote Medesun Healthcare Solutions. MHSL, which began modestly with 25 students and four trainers, has since trained 5,000 medical coders. Dr. Guptha has earned an entry into the India Book of Records for holding 42 certifications in medical coding.
“Medical coding is a highly specialised vocation requiring students to be well versed in medical terminology such as International Classification of Diseases and Current Procedural Terminology codebooks. This apart, students must be meticulous and possess good analytical and social skills. As the healthcare industry experiences a boom in India, I predict an escalating demand for medical coding professionals,” says Guptha.