Lead Coder: Salary and Career Facts

Lead coders have a management or supervisory role in the field of health information services, coordinating the conversion of patient data into medical codes for billing, insurance and related uses. Read on to see job duties. Learn about optional professional credentials, and see what your salary could be. Schools offering Computer Programming degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Lead Medical Coder?

Medical coders typically work in hospitals, reviewing and recording information about patients for the purpose of coding the intended procedures and diagnoses to send the information to the billing department and health administrators. Lead coders have a full understanding of the coding process and act as a liaison between the coding staff and coding manager when the manager is absent. They may also be tasked to resolve complicated or difficult situations encountered by the coding staff. In addition, they are responsible for quality control regarding the coding work done by all the staff, making sure that protocol is adequately followed.

Degree RequiredCertificate, Associate's
Education RequiredHealth Information Technology, Medical Billing and Coding
Key ResponsibilitiesUse specialized medical coding to record patient information regarding medications, procedures, and diagnoses for record-keeping and insurance
Licensure RequirementsCertification may be required by employers
Job Growth (2018-2028)*11% (for all medical records and health information technicians)
Median Salary (2018)*$40,350 (for all medical records and health information technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Lead Coder?

A medical coder is responsible for translating patient information and other health-related data intro code for billing, insurance and record-keeping purposes. When you work as a lead coder, you are responsible for overseeing a staff of medical coders. You might work in a hospital, medical facility, nursing care center or insurance company.

Your primary responsibilities as a lead coder include planning, organizing, scheduling and supervising a coding team. You might be in charge of hiring and training new recruits as well as disciplining staff. You are also responsible for maintaining health information management systems. You must typically have a strong understanding of ICD-9-CM or CPT coding systems in order to hold such a position.

What Educational Programs Are Available?

In order to earn a position as a lead coder, you must understand basic coding procedures and techniques. You might learn ICD-9-CM coding through an associate's degree or certificate program in health information technology or medical billing and coding.

While enrolled in a medical billing and coding program, you are expected to study health data requirements, health information systems, coding processes, data analysis and data security management. You are also expected to learn human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and clinical classification.

How Can I Acquire a Job?

If you are interested in becoming a lead coder, you might work your way up from a position as a medical coder, medical biller or health information technician. Many medical facilities employ lead coders who hold registration with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). You might earn registration as a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) or a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). In order to earn either credential, you are required to complete a 2-year associate's degree program in the field and complete an examination. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) also offers certification in the field.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

In general, medical records and health information technicians held 215,500 jobs in the United States as of May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). They primarily worked for hospitals and physicians' offices and earned a median annual salary of $46,690 as of 2018.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a few careers that have similar job duties as a medical coder. Becoming a medical transcriptionist requires a certificate training program, like being a coder. As a medical transcriptionist, you will be responsible for making written reports from recorded notes made by healthcare workers in order to prepare documents such as medical histories or discharge letters. You could also pursue being an information clerk, where you would be responsible for organizing documents and data within an administrative office environment. This position usually requires a high school diploma, however, an associate's or bachelor's degree may increase employment prospects. Extensive professional experience and certifications will enable you to apply for leadership roles in medical transcription or administrative supervisory position respectively. Another possible career would be medical and health services management, where you would be responsible for planning and ensuring that medical services are best provided, which would include staying up to date on changing policies and laws and researching new technology that could improve the efficiency and opportunities of your department or facility. You will need a bachelor's degree in order to pursue the management position.

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