Kaiwhakararangi Tohu Hauora
Clinical coders convert information in patient discharge notes into health classification codes. This information is used for research and to plan health funding and services.
Clinical coders usually earn
$38K-$63K per year
Source: PSA/DHBs South Island Administrative MECA, 2017.
Pay for clinical coders varies depending on their experience and qualifications.
- Trainee clinical coders usually earn between $38,000 and $47,000 a year.
- Qualified clinical coders usually earn between $49,000 and $61,000.
- Senior clinical coders with extra responsibilities can earn up to $63,000.
Source: PSA/DHBs, 'South Island Administrative Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, 01 February 2016 to 31 January 2019', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Clinical coders may do some or all of the following:
- analyse patient discharge records to match codes to disease, injuries or medical procedures
- use coding software to process and code patient discharge records
- consult with clinical staff, such as doctors, to verify discharge records
- keep up to date with health classification codes and coding software
- take part in coding audits and peer reviews
- answer public queries
- work with the Ministry of Health to solve coding issues.
Skills and knowledge
Clinical coders need to have:
- knowledge of health classification codes
- knowledge of medical terminology, including anatomy and physiology
- experience using computers and databases
- the ability to analyse and interpret medical notes.
- work regular business hours
- usually work in offices in hospitals.
What's the job really like?
Clinical coder Jennifer Marsh says it can be challenging working through the process of coding a patient's pathway from hospital admission to discharge.
"If a person has had a lot of complications you can have 50 codes. We've got five volumes that assist us to find the correct codes. Anything that may impact on a patient's stay in hospital has a code, and for every condition and procedure there's a code.
"You get to the stage where you start to know some of the codes by heart, but you still need to know where to look."
A job for perfectionists
"Coding is about reading through and deciphering the important bits in hospital notes. And if it's not written down you never assume that it happened. So if we have a problem with a set of notes, we'll get another coder's opinion or ring and clarify with the doctors."
Jennifer says remaining focused and accurate is important. "It's an analytical job where you're extracting information and classifying it – you have to be a perfectionist."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a clinical coder. However, employers usually prefer experience and qualifications in medical terminology and in clinical coding.
Medical terminology experience and qualifications
One of the following is preferred:
- good knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology
- completion of the Comprehensive Medical Terminology course, run by the Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA), via distance learning
- Certificate in Medical Terminology at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
Clinical coding qualifications
One of the following is preferred:
- completion of the Introductory ICD-10-AM Clinical Coding course, run by HIMAA, via distance learning
- completion of the Accelerated Coding Education course, run by Auckland District Health Board.
- Health Information Management Association of Australia website - information about the Comprehensive Medical Terminology course
- AUT website - information about the Certificate in Medical Terminology
- Health Information Management Association of Australia website - information about Introductory ECD-10-AM Clinical Coding course
A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, digital technologies, maths and English.
Clinical coders need to be:
- good at managing time
- skilled at problem solving
- good at seeing patterns
- excellent communicators, with good people skills
- responsible, with the ability to keep information confidential
- accurate, with an eye for detail.
Useful experience for clinical coders includes:
- work in nursing, medicine, biological sciences or other health services
- a health-related clerical background such as medical secretary or reception work
- work in computing and statistics.
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of finding work as a qualified clinical coder are good because of an increased demand for coding due to:
- an ageing population with more health problems
- a Ministry of Health requirement that all health records be electronic by 2020
- a worldwide shortage of clinical coders leading to coders leaving to work overseas.
Limited positions for trainee coders
Some District Health Boards (DHBs) take on trainees, but most prefer to employ trained clinical coders.
Most clinical coders work at hospitals
Clinical coders mainly work in public and private hospitals, but may also work for the Ministry of Health.
- Health Careers website, accessed May 2017, (www.healthcareers.org.nz).
- Health Information Management Association Australia website, accessed May 2017, (www.himaa.org.au).
- McDonald, K, 'HIMAA warns of workforce crisis putting eHealth at risk', 21 April 2015, (www.pulseitmagazine.com.au).
- Ministry of Health, 'Digital Health 2020', August 2016, (www.health.govt.nz).
- Taranaki District Health Board, 'Clinical Coders Celebrate Milestone Achievements', September 2015, (www.tdhb.org.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Clinical coders may progress within hospitals to become auditors, data analysts, clinical coding team leaders or coding managers.
Last updated 5 December 2019