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What Is an Inpatient Coder?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

An inpatient coder is a professional in the medical field who is responsible for medical coding in an inpatient medical environment. Some experts define an inpatient coder as a medical coding worker within an inpatient facility such as a hospital or long-term care facility. Inpatient care is generally defined as care where a patient stays in a facility overnight.

Inpatient coders are most usually certified medical coding professionals who have been through specific training and certifications related to applying medical codes to patient health documents. These medical codes are used to identify diagnosis and treatment. Standard medical codes help to set a particular standard for the entire medical industry, and since codes are international, they can be used across national boundaries.


Some national organizations provide more details on inpatient coders. The American Health Information Management Association, or AHIMA, specifies that inpatient coder professionals should have expertise in ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes. These codes specify specific diagnoses from a high level down to a detailed description of health conditions. Inpatient coders will use these extensively on different kinds of patient documentation. They will also use other kinds of proprietary medical codes and terminology to present finished documents that rigidly adhere to the many standards and requirements of various national health systems.

It is necessary that inpatient coders be knowledgeable about coding software. They have broad knowledge of medical terminology, biology, and anatomy, as well as major diseases and pharmacology. They are required to thoroughly understand different kinds of standard medical coding.

Professionals who work as inpatient coders are a critical part of nearly all medical offices. They may be engaged in training or mentoring junior staff. They may have leadership roles or work as liaisons to an outside party, such as a health insurance company or oversight organization. They may work in teams, or alone with minimal supervision, meaning that employers often request “self-starting” experience for these job roles, along with a maturity of outlook and verifiable track record within the medical field.

Most inpatient coder professionals are computer savvy and literate individuals who bring a strong element of order to a medical office. These credentialed professionals ensure that documentation of the work done a medical office will be accurate and functional in billing and other essential office processes. They will also be knowledgeable about patient health data confidentiality, and manage the control over privacy of sensitive information.

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