Medical Definitions

totalMD - an example of software used for entering medical codes

Here is a list of Medical Terms you will often see in Training Programs & Job Advertisements for MA's and what they mean.

Medical Coding

Despite what the name might suggest, this doesn't mean sending secret encoded messages to other areas of the medical profession.

Medical coding is the practice of reading the descriptions of health complaints, illnesses, diseases, and treatments, that are usually written by a Doctor, and then describing them by using standard codes - a sequence of letters and numbers that other health care professionals and insurance companies will understand.

The reason for this is so that the information can be put into a computer in a way that other computers, being using by other health professionals, will easily be able to look up and understand.

For example, the Doctor's notes might say that the patient has a rash that is itching on the patient's forearm and prescribe a topical scabicidal antipruritic lotion. The problem is that there can be several ways of describing this using normal language which would make it difficult for someone to find, or understand, when trying to access this information through a computer.

The solution is to convert this information into a standard set of codes of both the diagnosis and the treatment.

But don't worry, you won't be expected to memorize all the thousands of codes, you will have computer programs (like the one pictured) and other reference materials to look up when you have to enter these codes into a computer - sometimes the Doctor or Nurse will tell you what codes to use when they write their notes.

If you'd like to read more about the technical aspects of medical coding, then visit the American Health Information Management Association website at

Medical Billing

Medical billing is the process where a health care provider sends claims to insurance companies in order to be paid for services provided to patients.

No special qualification is required by law to do billing work, however you may see job advertisements listing Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) as a requirement - you can get more information from the American Medical Billing Association.


This is the process of drawing blood from a patient, and someone who specializes in it is called a Phlebotomist.

Drawing blood can be done in a number of ways. The two most common are venepuncture which basically means it's done by inserting a needle, and the other main way when only small amounts of blood are needed is with a fingerstick.


Also known as EKG or ECG, this is a form of test which measures the electrical activity of the heart in order to determine the health of the heart. This is done by placing electrodes on the chest, arms and legs of the patient. This can detect heart attacks, weakened heart muscles, irregular heart beat, and a lack of blood flowing to the heart.