Medical Billing and Coding Courses

Medical billers and coders are in charge of applying codes to doctor diagnoses and submitting claims from the physician to patient insurance carriers. Like the majority of health industry careers, they are expected to be in great demand over the next decade.

Types of Medical Billing Courses

There are several types of medical billing and coding courses available, and each is designed for a different level of education.

  • A certificate program is appropriate for someone who already has knowledge in healthcare terminology, diagnoses and anatomy, and is looking for a fast-track program to enter the field or change healthcare careers. If you’re already working in a clinic or hospital and are familiar with an area of healthcare, you might be a good candidate for a certificate program, as they typically take less than a year to complete.
  • If you’re new to the medical field you’ll probably be more successful in a diploma or associate’s degree medical billing and coding course. A diploma program teaches you all about billing and coding; an associate’s degree also includes the core classes necessary to earn your college degree. While an associate’s degree usually takes two years to complete, it is the more desirable because employers tend to look for those who have completed a degree program.
  • After you’re employed you can continue your education and earn your bachelor’s degree by advancing into management or by specializing in a specific type of billing and coding, such as that used for oncology patients or pediatrics.

What to Look for in Your Course

Most schools offer medical billing and coding courses. You can easily find programs in the area you live or online. There are a few key factors to look for when choosing a program, whether it’s in a traditional school or online. First of all, make sure the school is accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHEA). This is the national organization that determines whether a school meets overall curriculum quality and standards, and it will be well worth you time to go to their website and do a search for the school, or schools, you have in mind.

The second important thing to check is whether the medical billing and coding courses the school offers are accredited by the professional organizations that oversee the billing and coding industry. There are three to look for:

  • Advancing the Business of Healthcare (AAPC)
  • American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
  • Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)

This is important, because once you graduate you’ll want to become certified in billing and coding and these are the organizations that offer the certification credential exams.

The third thing to look for is the specific medical billing and coding course on the curriculum. While the titles of the courses will vary from school to school, you want to verify they meet the standards for each subject as determined by the accreditation associations. You’ll also want to verify that the software programs they teach are currently used by hospitals, clinics and insurance agencies.

What You’ll Study in Your Course

Your coursework will concentrate on the healthcare industry as well as the computer programs used in medical and insurance offices. You’ll also learn some of these healthcare basics:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Medical terminology
  • Codes used in patient charts and insurance forms
  • How to interact with patients and insurance companies
  • Ethics and legal aspects of working with confidential patient information
  • Statistics
  • Database management
  • Health data standards

You’ll also complete an internship during your schoolwork, which will give you hands on experience in the field.

Where You’ll Work

Once you graduate from your medical billing and coding course, you can find employment in a wide range of positions. Besides physicians’ offices, here are some of the places you might find work:

  • Clinics and hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Insurance offices
  • Assisted living facilities

Advancing Your Career

You may also choose to advance your career by becoming a registered health information technician (RHIT), which is a separate professional certification. You can also continue your education by earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health informatics, which can be a pathway to people management and higher pay, as well as more responsibility. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, you might consider becoming self-employed and opening your own medical billing and coding business. No matter what you choose to do, it all starts with finding an accredited medical billing and coding course.

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