Medical Billing and Coding Schools and Careers
The medical field as a whole is a multi-faceted system that requires a variety of support staff to keep it functioning, and roles can range from those who work one-on-one with patients to those who work behind the scenes. Each position relies on the other to ensure that health care facilities run efficiently. Medical billing and coding is one career that takes place behind the scenes.
As a biller or coder, you’ll analyze medical writings and translate them into a numerical or alphabetical code. This includes diagnostic codes that doctors, practitioners and nursing and medical assistants ascribe to patient ailments or conditions. The completed code will be sent to billing where it will be made into a claim or bill for the insurance agency or patient. Without medical coding and billing the medical provider would not have a way to get compensated for the care they provide. Compensation is necessary for the facility to pay for rent, employees, medical supplies and a variety of equipment vital to treatment and diagnosis of patients.
If medical coding and billing interests you, continue reading to find out what education is required, skills needed, career options and what salary to expect.
Medical Billing and Coding Resources
What Medical Billers and Coders Do
Medical billing and coding function as two different aspects of health services that work closely together to create accurate billing statements for insurance agencies and patients.
In larger facilities, medical billers are often different from medical coders. The medical coder receives documents from medical personnel that summarize patient visits. The coder analyzes that document and turns the information into a numerical or alphabetical code for filing. If the coder is unclear about any information on the document, they must get clarification from the care giver to ensure that the code is accurate.
Once the code is complete it is sent to the medical biller. The biller is expected to understand what the code means and what it translates to in terms of compensation. They must also have an understanding of insurance policies and how they are applied. They then turn the code into a claim or bill that is sent to the insurance agency or patient.
Medical coders and billers don’t always function as two different roles within a healthcare facility. In smaller facilities, the coder and biller are often the same person.
Necessary Skills for the Job
Medical billing and coding makes use of both soft and hard skills. Soft skills tend to come naturally to a person. However, there is no need to feel intimidated if that is not the case for you, through training and job experience you can become even more confident in your skill set. The soft skills that are beneficial include, but are not limited to:
- Active listening
- Reading comprehension
- Critical thinking
Hard skills can be learned through training. Once you begin your education for medical billing and coding you will be given the opportunity to learn the hard skills associated with the position. There is no need to be discouraged if you do not have the following skills prior to your educational journey:
- Computers and electronics
- Customer and personal service
- English language
As technology becomes more advanced, many career fields require that their employees have technology skills, and medical coding and billing is no exception. In fact, medical coding and billing requires knowledge of a variety of software including:
- Accounting software
- Categorization or classification software
- Database user interface and query software
- Document management software
- Medical software
How to Become a Medical Biller or Coder
Earn Your Degree
Medical billing and coding is unusual in that you do not need experience in the medical field to start working in this position. Although experience is not required, knowledge of the field is required. If you find yourself with no background or knowledge of this field, you should consider taking a program in medical billing and coding. There are a variety of programs available for you to begin your education.
To begin, think about an associate’s degree program. While an associate’s degree may not be necessary in some cases and a certificate program—which takes a shorter amount of time to complete—may suffice, an associate’s degree gives you a solid education in medical technology, administration and accounting. Depending on which program you decide to enter, the time you dedicate to earning your education can take between four months and two years. If you have a busy schedule and are interested in online programs, there are a variety of online options for you to explore.
You can expect the following coursework in a medical billing and coding program:
- Anatomy, physiology and disease of the human body
- Medical insurance
- Medical billing, coding and terminology
- Reimbursement methodology
Complete Your Certification Exams
You can take the certification exam before completing your program if you already have experience in the field. If this option does not apply to you, then completing a program prior to taking the exam might be the best option. Having a certification in medical billing and coding provides you with the opportunity to be a more competitive hire and earn more money.
There are two different coding exams, each with its own provider.
The Certified Coding Associate (CCA) is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). This exam requires that you have a High School Diploma or equivalent. Non-member price to take the exam is $299 and member price is $199.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam. The organization requires that you be a member to take the exam, although it will accept member dues with the exam fee. The exam fee is $325 and includes one free retake.
Research Career Path Options
Medical billing and coding is an entry-level position within health information. If you begin working as a medical biller and coder and find yourself wanting to advance you career, there are several options for you.
You may seek to earn a certificate to become a Registered Health Information Technician. Alternatively, if the managerial path interests you then you may consider continuing your education to earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree to become a medical or health service manager.
Although the initial career choices as a medical biller and coder may be limited, the places you can find employment as a medical coder and biller are vast and can be found throughout the medical field:
- Professional, scientific and technical services
- Hospitals, local and private
- Administrative and support services
- Nursing care facilities
- Offices of physicians
One employment opportunity you may enjoy as a medical biller and coder is working from home. Many people in this field contract their skills to several doctors’ offices and clinics and set up a home office where they can do the work and then invoice the clinic for their services.
Salary and Job Growth
When assessing the salary for medical billing and coding, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) associates it with medical records and health information technicians. The BLS states the median annual wage for medical records and health information technicians
Medical Billing and Coding Professional
Over the last few
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