Physician Practice

2014 Coder Salary Survey results: How physician practice coders compare

Physician Practice Insider, January 13, 2015

Coders, do you feel that you work more hours than most coders? Or your compensation is lower than other coders across the country? Have you ever wondered how you compare to the average coder? According to the 535 HIM professionals who answered the 2014 Coder Salary Survey, the average physician practice coder is:

  • Paid $40,000–$49,999 per year
  • Age 50–59
  • Has 6–10 years of experience
  • Works 32–40 hours per week
  • Received a 2% raise in the last 12 months

Of coders across all settings (e.g., hospital, physician practice, ambulatory surgery center), 21% reported receiving a salary in the $40,000–$49,999 range, with a salary of $50,000–$59,999 a close second at 20%. Respondents earning less than $39,999 per year dropped substantially over the past year. In 2014, only 19% of coders reporting earning less than that, with 32% reporting a salary of $39,999 or less in 2013.

The largest percentage of physician practice coders earn a salary in the same range as the average coder across all settings, though overall physician practice coders earn less. Approximately 34% of physician practice coders reported a salary in the $40,000–$49,999 range. Another 16% reported earning $50,000–$59,000. But approximately 36% of physician practice coders reported earning $39,999 or less, nearly double the percentage in that range compared to all coders.

The good news is that salaries are improving for all coders.

"Salaries are going up and will continue to rise," says Monica Lenahan, CCS, AHIMA-approved ICD-10-CM/PCS trainer, director of coding compliance and education for Centura Health in Englewood, Colorado, citing added responsibilities as the job evolves and potential coder shortages in the future.

The increase in average salary could be due, in part, to the increase in education level amongst all respondents. The most common degree among all types of coders remained an associate's degree, with 34% holding one in 2014. The number of respondents with a bachelor's degree climbed from 16% in 2013 to 23% in 2014. Another 31% reported their highest level of education as high school or "some college" in 2014, down from 38% reporting those levels of education in 2013.

The majority of physician practice coders tended to have either some college (42%) or an associate’s degree (23%). Another 11% reported holding a bachelor’s degree. Sixteen percent reported their highest level of education as high school.

The most common credentials among physician practice coders are:

  • CPC, 67%
  • RHIT, 8%
  • AHIMA-approved ICD-10 trainer, 6%
  • No credential, 13%

The increase in salary could also be due to coders working more hours in 2014. Last year, 63% reported working between 32–40 hours a week, but that fell to 53% in 2014. Coders working 41 or more hours per week jumped 10 percentage points to 44% in 2014. The number of hours that specifically physician practice coders worked per week is nearly identical.

Despite the increase in salary, the majority of all respondents (57%) do not believe that the combination of coder salary, benefits, and bonuses have kept up with the cost of living, though this is down from the 76% who felt that way in 2013.

The majority of respondents (55%) still believe that they are fairly compensated for the work they do, even though only 41% believe coders in general receive sufficient compensation. This is still a marked increase from 2013, when only 34% felt fairly compensated and 26% thought coders overall were compensated sufficiently.

It’s an undeniable fact that the coder population continues to age without an influx of new, young coders.

"This is a rapidly approaching big problem," said Lenahan "There was a fair amount of coder recruitment and training in the 1980s due to DRGs, and it’s obvious from my experience and [the] survey that these folks have stayed in the coding profession."

Nearly half (46%) of the respondents in 2014 are 50–59 years old, with 15% aged 60–69. Last year, those numbers were at 38% and 13%, respectively. Only 14% of 2014 respondents are between 20–39 years old, while that number was at 20% in 2013. "As an industry we haven’t done the best job obtaining new recruits into the profession recently, but I think that will change shortly with the coder shortage due to ICD-10," Lenahan said.

This article was adapted from survey result coverage in Click here to read more.

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