Here's the basic medical terminology you'll need to learn to become skilled and successful in medical coding (or any medical career)...
As a medical biller or medical coding specialist, you have to assign specific codes based on what the medical provider finds at the patient visit.
What this means is that the coder must be able to understand and interpret the provider's written progress notes from the visit, and translate them into the correct codes.
A good understanding of basic medical terminology helps you understand the doctor's notes more precisely - you're better able to assign the correct code to the patient's office visit.
This understanding is even more important in specialty medical fields. These may require an in-depth understanding of medical terminology and the need for a very specific diagnosis, like in oncology.
Medical terms generally have 3 parts:
When you put them all together, the three parts of the word create a more specific medical term. Some medical terms may have all three parts, whereas others might have only one or two.
Root Words are the part of the word that can stand alone as the main part of the medical term. It holds the fundamental meaning of the phrase. Sometimes, medical terms can have more than one root.
Here's a brief list of root words and their meanings:
|Phag||eat or swallow|
|Synov/i||synovial fluid, joint, or membrane|
|Vas/o||vessel or duct|
Prefixes are typically attached to the beginning of words to modify their meanings. They usually specify the location, time, or number.
Here's a brief list of common prefixes and their meanings:
|A-||without, absence of|
|Ec-, Ect/o-||out, outside|
Suffixes are typically attached to the end of word, to change their meanings. They usually indicate the procedure, condition, disorder, or disease.
Here's a brief list of common suffixes and their meanings:
|-ectomy||excision, surgical removal|
|-graphy||act of recording data|
|-plasty||plastic repair/surgery, reconstruction|
By understanding the root words, prefixes and suffixes of medical terminology, you can put together the meaning of a medical term pretty easily. Examples:
You can break down the word rhinorrhea to understand its meaning.
Using basic medical terminology, rhinorrhea means discharge from the nose - a runny nose.
You can also break down the word cardiomyopathy to figure out what it means.
Cardiomyopathy is a diseased heart muscle.
A good tip when you're coding difficult medical terms is to always use a current medical dictionary. This will help you avoid any confusion with the roots, prefixes, or suffixes you come across. Here's an online one.
Another part of being a good medical coder is an understanding the anatomical positions and planes that your doctor is referring to in his or her office visit notes.
Although they're used less often to define a medical term, these positional terms are sometimes important in specifying your diagnosis when you code.
The following is a brief list of anatomical planes and positions:
The position or plane of a medical term can make the correct code change drastically...
For example, a very general term is abdominal pain. But this code varies greatly.
Depending on the area of the pain, the severity, and the duration, the correct code for abdominal pain, acute, lower right quadrant, can be totally different from the general abdominal pain code.
Another important part of knowing your basic medical terminology is understanding the five types of membranes in the human body. Membranes line the internal organs, tubes that open to the outside of the body, and body cavities.
These terms will sometimes be important in assigning the correct diagnosis code:
If you're employed as a coder in a specialty field, such as oncology or dermatology, your understanding of medical terms and your ability to translate them into the correct diagnosis codes will be one of your best assets.
Being able to identify, define, and specify the many unique diagnosis codes, based on your understanding of basic medical terminology, is the best trait of a good medical coder.
As you gain more experience as a medical coder, determining the correct code will become easier and easier, until it's a very part of the way you go through your daily routine.
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