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As a resource to all current and prospective students, Allied Schools, Inc. has developed this blog to provide relevant information to students, job-seekers and professionals alike. Use this blog as your "career guide," turning to Allied Schools for industry updates, career trends, and job search advice. We thank you for visiting!

With the coming transition of the United States health care system from the ICD-9-CM diagnostic codes to the ICD-10-M, there are changes occurring on every level. While some may look at October 1, 2014 with dread, they can instead look to medical coding specialists trained in ICD-10 to help bridge the transition with confidence.

Because medical coding specialists are the ones who interact on a daily basis with diagnostic codes, they must be up-to-speed with ICD-10, while still having fluency with the ICD-9-CM system. Understanding both can help build a segue during the transition. With a medical coding training program like that provided by Allied Medical School, you will learn both systems and be able to be the go-to person to help make the coding transition smooth for your employer.

Bridging the Codes

Medical coding specialists can help physicians translate from one code to another by mapping and translating the code sets. Having the ability to perform a translation between ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM codes is important for medical coding professionals. Translation is particularly useful when bridging codes back to ICD-9-CM when you are analyzing and tracking data. An example of this is reporting on this calendar year in which both coding systems will be seen. In this case, it could be easier to bridge ICD-10 codes back to ICD-9-CM in order to create a standard data set. Additionally, bridging codes can help medical coders update records and programs for the physician.

Why the Change is Happening

The core reason why ICD-9-CM is being phased out is because, having been published in 1978, it is outdated. The system is simply no longer flexible enough to address the changes to medical diagnoses and procedures. And as new things are discovered with regard to methods, diseases and diagnoses, ICD-9-CM hasn’t met the space needs within its code to report these medical advances accurately. Comparing ICD-9-CM at 13,000 codes, with ICD-10-CM at 68,000 codes, the room and then some is found.

Difficulties in the translation process occur, though, because ICD-10-CM expands so much on the codes found within ICD-9-CM. It is the duty of the medical coder to watch for discrepancies, inaccurate or incomplete translations between the two code sets. Even then, it is not possible to perform a perfectly accurate translation from one code set to another because of the differences between the two of concept, format and structure.

How You Can Prepare

As you train to become a medical coding specialist through Allied Medical School’s program, you will be exposed to both coding systems. Having a foundation of training built upon both ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM, you will be better prepared to assist physicians with translating the coding systems and helping to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

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When your skills and knowledge are needed, they often become a hot commodity in markets where there are not enough qualified people to meet that need. This is what is happening with medical coding specialists trained in the ICD-10 coding system. As all physicians and hospitals transition to the ICD-10 system on October 1, 2014, the demand is now greater than ever for qualified medical coders.

Becoming a qualified medical coding specialist also means commanding a competitive wage. Recently, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) conducted an annual salary survey of certified medical coders and medical billers. Factoring in differences of where the survey was conducted geographically, as well as the level of job responsibilities among those surveyed, the results concluded that the earnings potential of medical coders and medical billers is well above minimum wage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certified medical coders average $34,160 annually, with an expected job growth rate of up to 22% from 2012 to 2022.

One reason why certified medical coders have such a bright career outlook is the specialized training involved, such as provided by Allied Medical School’s Medical Coding Specialist training program. Also, medical coders often utilize skills that touch on all areas of health care delivery, such as reimbursement issues, appropriate documentation of medically-necessary services provided, and as a resource to help ensure the physician or hospital stays compliant with government programs and commercial contracts. Being able to go above and beyond their job duties earns medical coders a good wage and the respect of their employer who depends upon them for accuracy and integrity with everything they touch.

Jobs For Medical Coders

As with most jobs, starting at the entry-level means new medical coders will likely be responsible for data entry, charge entry, and claim reconciliation. These tasks require basic knowledge and understanding of medical coding and the health care reimbursement system, and are extremely important for the vitality of a medical practice’s financial picture.

When the medical coder gains experience and training, they are often given more responsibility with the reporting of health information to third-parties and outside agencies. The medical coder can now determine the coverage of government and commercial health care insurance, and know the different code combinations they require in the insurance claims process. By helping to create coding strategies for the employer, medical coders assist them with legally maximizing reimbursement as well as preventing fraud and abuse of this system.

Medical coders may also choose to become consultants rather than work for an employer. Medical coding consultants work with clients to research code methodology, perform coding audits and give professional coding advice. They can also choose to become educators of the ICD-10 coding system, and train the next generation of certified medical coders.

No matter which route the medical coder takes, experience is the key to moving forward. Nowhere is this more important than when the medical coding student passes the Allied Medical School training and moves into the externship included with the program. 

The Medical Coding Externship allows new medical coders to get hands-on experience under direct supervision in a real work environment. This experience also helps the medical coder stand out as a candidate in the field.

Providing Positive Results

The world of a certified medical coding specialist is demanding, but also rewarding. Learning how to become one through the Allied Medical School medical coding training program will help you master what is involved, and put you on the path toward a high-growth, top-earning career that positions you as the physician’s friend.

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While there will always be a need for medical assistants, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in October 2013 made this need even more urgent. The demand for trained medical assistants in physicians’ offices has also helped to push dollars earned to over $29,370 annually,* making it a golden opportunity for those who want a career that is not only always in demand, but one that can provide a competitive salary.

Medical assistants can travel two routes when it comes to a career. First, the clinical side of the physician’s office requires that the medical assistant work one-on-one with patients taking their vital signs, conducting minor procedures under the physician’s supervision, and assisting with examinations as needed. Clinical work also requires patience and stamina to meet and assist many people in a day, each with his or her own personality. With these challenges come the rewards of helping people who need you, including the physician.

The administrative side of medical assisting is known as “front office.” This usually includes duties such as working with insurance coding, handling patient accounts, scheduling patients and various other clerical duties. Again, having patience is key because back office medical assistants are the face of the practice, meeting and greeting patients as they enter the medical office and approach the front desk.

All medical assistants must begin with a qualified medical assisting training program, such as what Allied Medical School offers. The Allied program offers flexibility that allows students up to a year to complete each program (Medical Assisting I and Medical Assisting II).

The Allied program offers flexible training that can be completed within a year. Both front and back office aspects are covered, with the program wrapping up with a hands-on externship in the student’s own community.

Real-Time Experience Via Externship

One of the most important aspects of training to be a medical assistant is obtaining hands-on experience. Most physicians require this for employment consideration, and with externships through Allied Medical School’s program, you can get it.

The medical assisting externship consists of 160 hours of field experience, placing students in a real work environment under direct supervision from experienced staff. In turn, this gives the student the qualities necessary for employment as a medical professional. Through the externship, medical assisting students can expect to perform certain tasks such as:

  • Scheduling appointments, filing, and answering phones
  • Learning time management skills
  • How to work with electronic health and medical records
  • Obtaining vital signs
  • Learning about patient education
  • Assisting in patient exams
  • Giving injections and immunizations, if applicable
  • Managing and ordering supplies
  • … and more

Allied’s medical assisting externship is complimentary to students who complete the Medical Assisting I and II programs successfully.

Great Growth Expected

Those who join the medical assisting field can expect much faster than average career growth – 29% in fact between 2012 and 2022. This is due in part to the increased demand for trained medical assisting professionals via the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Because of the ACA, millions of new insurance subscribers will flood the health care market, increasing physicians’ patient loads and necessitating more medical assistants to help manage this.

Additionally, because medical assistants are expected to have increasingly complex job responsibilities, the average salary should go up. The switch to utilizing electronic health records (EHRs) will contribute to the ever-changing duties of the medical assistant, requiring them to have knowledge of EHR computer software, maintenance of EHR security and ability to analyze electronic data in order to improve health care information. Because of this, the average salary of a trained medical assistant is expected to increase annually.

Go For The Gold

Take the first step toward being in demand across the country. Start your medical assistant training now and become a part of this growing career field.


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