Why Knowing Medical Terminology Makes Coding Easier

January 27th, 2023 - Find-A-Code

You are excited about beginning your training as a professional medical coder. You're expecting to pass the exam and earn your certification. The future is looking bright until, as you are perusing the educational material, you suddenly realize you're going to have to learn medical terminology.

That scares you. All those medical terms seem like a complicated recipe of Greek and Latin. You have never been good with foreign languages, so how are you going to pass the medical coding exam if you cannot learn the terminology?

First of all, relax. Knowing medical terminology certainly makes coding easier. Understanding the terms makes diagnostic code lookup a piece of cake. The same with ICD-10 and CPT codes. Best of all, learning the terminology is not as hard as it probably seems.

Numerous Smaller Parts

A given medical term might seem like Greek and Latin mumbo-jumbo to you. That's only because you don't understand the structure. A typical medical term is made up of numerous smaller parts. How many parts? That depends on the term. Let us take a look at an example.

The word 'hypoglycemia' actually has three parts to it:

●    hypo = low
●    glyc = blood sugar
●    emis = a blood condition.

Knowing what each of the three parts means, can you now define the term? Hypoglycemia is a medical condition involving low blood sugar. Similarly, you could break down an entire range of terms from 'hyperthermia' to 'gastroenteritis' to 'osteoporosis'.

Just Learn the Components

The secret to learning medical terminology is to learn the individual components. We demonstrated as much with the previous example. You don't necessarily need to know what hypoglycemia is if you know what all three components of the word refer to. By learning the components, you do not have to learn specific definitions for each term.

Medical terms are divided into three primary components:

●    Prefixes – The prefix is the first component in a medical term. It generally designates things like physiological location, quantity, quality, etc.

●    Root Words – The root word is generally the second component. It designates the physiological system, the body part, etc.

●    Suffixes – The suffix is the third component in a medical term. It generally refers to a condition, a pathology, or some sort of procedure, test, etc.

Having said that, medical terms are not limited to three components. Take the word osteochondrodysplasia. It actually has two prefixes: osteo (bone) and chondro (cartilage). Combining these two prefixes tells you that you are dealing with a joint issue. How do you know? Because bones and cartilage are found together in joints.

Like Building a House

It has been suggested that learning medical terminology is a lot like building a house. You start with a foundation. In this case, the foundation is the root word. You build on that root word just like a framing carpenter builds on top of a block foundation. Each component added to a term contributes to completing the entire term, just like each component added to a house contributes to the completed structure.

As a medical coder, you don't have to be intimately familiar with every single body part and physiological function. For example, you do not have to know all the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. You don't have to know how doctors treat the condition. All you need to know are the three components that make up the term.

If you've been thinking about a career in medical billing or coding, be prepared to learn medical terminology. But don't stress over it. Enroll in a good training program and you will probably find it easier than you otherwise imagined.


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