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The Pandemic’s Effect on the Medical Coding Job Market
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the medical coding job market, initially causing a decline in employment due to the temporary suspension of non-emergency medical procedures and the shift to telemedicine. However, the long-term outlook for medical coders remains positive due to aging demographics, increasing healthcare demand, and the adoption of electric health records (EHRs).
Initial Impact of the Pandemic
The early stages of the pandemic led to a decrease in patient visits, resulting in a reduced need for medical coders. Many healthcare providers furloughed or laid off staff, including coders, to reduce costs during the uncertain economic climate. This disruption in the job market caused anxiety among coders and raised concerns about the profession’s future.
Emergence of Telemedicine and Adaptability
Despite the initial challenges, the pandemic also accelerated the adoption of telemedicine, allowing healthcare providers to continue providing care remotely. This shift created new opportunities for medical coders, who needed to code for virtual consultations and other telehealth services. Coders who were able to adapt to this new environment were able to retain their jobs or even find new opportunities.
Long-Term Outlook: Positive Growth and Demand
Despite the temporary disruption caused by the pandemic, the long-term outlook for medical coders remains positive. The aging population and the cumulative prevalence of chronic diseases remain expected to drive up demand for healthcare services, including medical coding. Additionally, adopting EHRs has streamlined the coding process and increased the need for skilled medical coders.
Key Factors Contributing to Positive Outlook
Aging Population: As the population ages, an increased demand for healthcare services, including medical coding, will remain.
Rising Healthcare Costs: Healthcare costs remain expected to continue growing, leading to increased demand for efficient and accurate coding practices.
Adoption of EHRs: EHRs have streamlined the coding process and made it more efficient, which has increased the demand for skilled medical coders.
Outpatient Care Expansion: The shift towards outpatient care is increasing the need for medical coders, as outpatient procedures generate more coding than inpatient procedures.
Career Strategies for Medical Coders
To thrive in the evolving medical coding landscape, coders should consider the following strategies:
Stay Up-to-Date with Coding Regulations: Medical coding regulations are constantly changing, so coders need to stay up-to-date with the latest requirements.
Develop Specialized Skills: Acquiring specialized skills in oncology or pediatrics can make coders more marketable and increase their earning potential.
Embrace Technology: Familiarity with EHRs and other healthcare technology is essential for success in the modern medical coding field.
Pursue Certification: Obtaining certification from reputable organizations like the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) can enhance credibility and open new job opportunities.
Network with Industry Professionals: Building relationships with other coders and healthcare professionals can provide access to job opportunities and valuable insights into the industry.
Consider adding a specialty certification to the credentials of coders who work in highly specialized physician offices and practices.
Medical coders with a specialization credential make an average of $62,175 per year, or 8.7% more than non-specialized CPCs, who make an average of $57,201 per year. In addition to the ambulatory surgical center, anesthesia and pain management, cardiology, dermatology, emergency department, pediatrics, and urology, the AAPC offers specialty certifications for a variety of disciplines.
As a result of specialization, professionals might acquire an advantage over their competitors while demonstrating to potential employers that they take their career growth seriously. The majority of medical practices and health systems, for example, can benefit greatly from risk adjustment coding.
Where and How to Find A Job
It may be more difficult to get coding jobs at first, but the long-term prospects are better. As per the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Department of Labor:
The employment of health information technologists is expected to rise at a greater rate than the average for all occupations between now and 2028, according to the BLS.
There will be a growing demand for healthcare technologists to organize and handle the accompanying information as the number of records and the widespread use of EHRs by all types of healthcare providers rises.
With a baby boomer-dominated population (20 percent), and projections from the U.S. Census Bureau predicting a 55 percent increase in the number of individuals 65 and older by 2030, a career in social work is likely to see a lot of long-term job growth.
In order to seize these possibilities, however, one must be diligent, conduct extensive research, enhance one’s understanding of the subject matter, and engage in more extensive networking.
while the COVID-19 pandemic initially disrupted the medical coding job market, the long-term outlook for the profession remains positive. The aging population, increasing healthcare demand, and adoption of EHRs contribute to a growing need for skilled medical coders. By staying up-to-date with regulations, developing specialized skills, embracing technology, pursuing certification, and networking with industry professionals, coders can position themselves for success in this evolving field.