Can Medical Coding Be Self-Taught?

Posted On Mar 14, 2021 |

Let's look into the options for medical coding self-study.

I'm a firm believer that you can learn just about anything watching YouTube tutorials. There are lots of amazing, inspirational stories of people building houses, businesses, machinery, and more that were self-taught by watching YouTube tutorials. With the rising cost of education, countless people are looking into such alternatives to learn skills that don't require formal education. Many people interested in medical coding are curious if they can self-teach these concepts.

Is it possible? Yes. Is it easy? Absolutely not.

Self-taught medical coding is easier for those already working in the health care field that has a good basis of medical terminology and other insurance concepts. It would be extremely difficult for someone who has absolutely no background in healthcare or any exposure to medical coding. While all the three coding books utilized (ICD-10, HCPCS, and CPT) come with instructions, it's harder to understand how to utilize them from scratch.

Learning medical coding completely for free simply cannot happen because the books need to be purchased, studied, and are mandatory for testing purposes. But, if you’re determined to do self-study, here are the most budget-friendly suggestions I can offer.

These are the books needed for professional medical coding, which is coding for physician and other medical provider services.

CPT is Current Procedural Terminology. This book is for coding for procedures and is required for the CPC (Certified Professional Coder) exam. The CPC exam dictates that you must have the AMA version of CPT books only. I would recommend getting the edition for the year that you will be taking your examination in.

ICD-10-CM is for diagnosis-based coding for professional services.  For the CPC exam, you can use any version of ICD-10-CM that you want. Make sure you have the CM edition, and not PCS. PCS is only utilized for hospital/facility coding, and not required for the CPC exam. Here is a suggestion of one you can purchase easily online through Amazon. You can check out some of the reviews for more information as well.

HCPCs are codes for durable medical equipment, medications, insurance-specific codes for procedures, and other services. You can have any edition of HCPCS book that you want for you or exam.  You can buy the one above off Amazon easily. If you're an Amazon Prime member they will even ship it to you for free.

Step-By-Step Medical Coding is an instructional guide that is utilized very commonly in medical coding classes in colleges and technical schools. While you won't be able to access the teacher’s information (such as test answers) there are select case answers and rationale in the back of the student guide. I would suggest purchasing this book as well as the coding books indicated above. Current year coding books are required when you are testing for any certification exams through AHIMA or AAPC.  You can write, draw, highlight or tab the books in just about any fashion you want. You cannot staple, paste, tape, or add additional pages into the book or white-out entire pages of the book for notes.

Check us out on YouTube for some great tutorials and information on medical coding. There is also chapter-specific information that you can find through your YouTube searches. This will help you in understanding the concepts that will guide you to becoming a medical coder. When you're ready, purchase some of the practice exams through the AAPC to get some simulation of what the certification exam will be like.

While you can't become a certified coder for free, there are ways to cut down the cost if you are interested in self-study. Power the tools above and try to stay as focused as possible. Make an agenda for yourself and stick to it. Good luck!

2021 CPT -
2021 ICD-10-CM -
2021 HCPCS –
Step-by-Step Medical Coding Textbook -
Step-by-Step Medical Coding Workbook -

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