You’d have heard of the term medical coding by now; it’s thrown around often enough. If you didn’t know, medical coders use source documents such as diagnostic findings and treatment and medication records, and convert these into standardized coding for the patient charts, billing and data analysis. Medical transcriptionists have a special job. They are specialists because they use dictation records from physicians and other health care workers to create properly formatted and organized medical and billing records. They also assist in resolving any conflicts regarding charges for health care services.
Most transcriptionists and coders work in hospitals, healthcare facilities (outpatient) or doctor’s offices. If you compare the salaries, hospitals offer higher pay. Some medical coders work for insurance companies or even public health agencies, performing statistical analysis of medical records in order to track or record diseases and health problems. Such people usually have high salaries compared to others as per medical billing salary standards. In the case of transcriptionists, they often work for medical laboratories providing transcription and consulting services.
But on the whole, the compensation for medical coders and transcriptionists is not much different. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics mentioned in 2006 that the mean hourly wage for medical transcriptionists was $14.40. The lowest 10 percent got an average salary of $10.22 per hour, while the highest-remunerated 10 percent were paid $20.15 per hour. In the same year, the median salary for medical billing salary for coders was just over $19,000. The lowest 10 percent averaged $22,240, whereas the upper 10 percent averaged salaries of $45,260.
Medical transcription and coding both require a post-secondary training, usually in the form of an associate’s degree (a community college or distance learning school degree would suffice). An alternative for transcription is a one-year certification program, although this is usually preferred if you already have a health care background. Students take courses in, anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues, and physiology, etc. The training for transcription is more practical or real-time oriented, and frequently includes supervised internships.
To get the job and for career advancement, both medical coders as well as transcriptionists need professional certification. Medical coders can get their certification by clearing the coding exam with a specialty in medical billing offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). In case of certification for medical transcriptionists, the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) provides it. Fresh graduates are allowed to take the exam for registered medical transcriptionist (RMT) but they anyhow require at least two years’ experience to become a certified medical transcriptionist (CMT).