In the world of medical coding, there are two fairly distinct groups of medical coders:
- Those who perform medical coding for clinics, physicians offices, and hospital emergency rooms. These are typically referred to as “Outpatient Medical Coders”.
- Those who perform medical coding in major hospitals. These are typically referred to as “Inpatient Medical Coders”.
If you are interested in a medical coding career, it will be important to understand the difference between outpatient medical coding and inpatient medical coding. This might be best understood through example. If you have a procedure performed that requires you to be admitted to the hospital and stay overnight, this medical coding activity will require the skills of an inpatient medical coder. If you have a procedure performed on a same-day basis and are not admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay then it is considered an outpatient event and is typically assigned to an outpatient medical coder.
A lot of surgeries and procedures that used to require admission to the hospital are now being performed routinely on an outpatient basis – which means you go in and have the surgery and come home the same day without ever being admitted to the hospital.
As you might expect, there is a significant difference in the skill set required to apply medical codes to complex inpatient operative reports vs. the skill set required to apply appropriate medical codes to a report for a laceration or a stubbed toe in a clinic or emergency room setting.