Radiology Coder Career Facts

A radiology coder plays an important role in medical insurance reimbursement. A radiology coder first goes through the patient’s record and then checks it against the doctor’s medical reports. When these two match, a radiology coder then assigns an appropriate code to the patient’s malady and radiology procedure. The generated codes are required for billing purposes and are sent to medical insurance companies for reimbursement purposes.

This professional also makes sure that all codes generated conform to CPT and ICD-9 standards. A radiology coder thus works in a team belonging to the department of radiology. This profession demands working in close association with the department of medical records. CPT codes tend to change on a regular basis. Hence, a radiology coding professional has the responsibility to stay updated on these changes.

Required Education and Qualifications

  • A high school diploma with a good academic record is the first step to becoming a radiology coder.
  • You might pursue a community or junior college course that offers training in medical records.
  • Obtaining certification is the final step in entering the career of radiology coder. You may become a Certified Professional Coder,  Certified Medical Administrative Assistant or Certified Billing and Coding Specialist.
  • You must possess strong computer skills with knowledge in database management.
  • Because radiology covers a wide spectrum of diagnosis and procedures, learning to code specific sub-specialties like MRIs and ultrasounds could be more helpful.

In addition to the more formal requirements above, you should remain flexible while working in a team, posses strong analytical skills and be able to meet tight deadlines.

Basic Tasks in Radiology Coding

Radiology coders usually work at emergency rooms, hospitals, coding companies and small clinics. Sometimes coders work from home on a contract or freelance basis as well. Regardless of the work environment, everyday tasks of a radiology coder would involve the following:

  • Studying medical records of patients
  • Studying reports provided by doctors
  • Assigning appropriate codes for the procedures performed
  • Performing some administrative tasks, depending on the nature of employer
  • Performing account maintenance or bookkeeping in the case of a freelance or contractual position.

Radiology coders usually have to meet time-bound targets. For instance, employers may ask you to complete 15 charts in an hour or assign daily targets.

Earnings of a Radiology Coder

Radiology coders usually are paid hourly. Starting salary may range from $10 to $14 per hour. As the experience of the coder increases, he or she becomes entitled to a higher pay. A coder with 20 or more years of experience can earn $22 per hour.

Wages could also vary depending on the location of the hospital or firm. The higher the demand for coders in the region, the higher the pay. The maximum amount earned by a coder in places with higher demand is $24.95 (California). Specialization of the coder also determines the pay rate. According to a survey conducted in 2008 by the American Academy of Professional Coders, the following were the average salaries for specific specialties:

  • Interventional radiology: $47,100
  • Plastic surgery: $47,200
  • Nephrology: $50,800
  • Rheumatology: $57,800
  • Neuropsychiatry: $62,500.