As medical technology advances and people are living longer than ever before, there is a greater need for healthcare services to help individuals maintain healthy, active, and independent lifestyles. In order for healthcare facilities to receive compensation for the treatments that they provide and keep accurate records of a patient’s health issues and needs, they hire medical billing and coding specialists. Medical billing and coding schools familiarize students with coding practices and healthcare reimbursement procedures so that they can establish a career in the fast-growing industry of health information technology. If you are an analytical and detail oriented person who would like to join the business side of the healthcare industry, then start exploring medical billing and coding programs today!
Exploring Medical Billing and Coding Schools
Medical billing and coding is a subset of health information technology. Due to the technical complexity of the job, most employers require that medical billers and coders have completed either a vocational training program in medical billing and coding or a two-year associate’s degree in either medical billing and coding or health information technology. Joining a postsecondary medical billing and coding program will require you have a high school diploma or GED. Your coursework may include study in:
- Computerized office management
- ICD-9 medical coding.
- Health care settings and claims processing
- Medical billing and coding applications
- Health insurance management
- Anatomy and medical terminology
- Healthcare reimbursement issues
- Medical records and documentation
- Medical ethics and compliance
Vocational programs will allow you to enter the workforce quickly and typically range from eight months to a year. Associate’s degree programs, although requiring longer to complete, usually give a broader education and can lead to additional employment opportunities within medical records and health information technology beyond just medical billing and coding. For example, in addition to the responsibilities of the billing and coding specialist, medical records and health information technicians may also review, compile, code, and electronically record patient records for the purpose of storage, analysis, and reporting.
Employers typically prefer to hire candidates who have received professional certification, such as the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and Certified Professional Biller (CPB) credential offered through the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Those who have obtained a health information technology associate’s degree accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) are eligible for the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Along with your credentials, strong attention to detail and comfort with technology may be useful skills for gaining employment.
Landing the Job: Becoming a Billing and Coding Sepcialist
Medical coding specialists translate diagnoses and treatments into standardized codes that create a kind of universal language so that insurance companies can assess the treatment plan for a patient. Also, these codes are helpful if the patient needs to go to a hospital, see a specialist or moves. The new providers do not need to read through pages of text in order to have a broad understanding of the patient’s healthcare history and current health status.
Medical billing specialists serve as a liaison between the provider and medical insurance companies, as well as for individual patients who are paying for services out of pocket. Digital health records and fully electronic payments between insurance companies, providers, and patients offer convenience and transparency for all parties. However, these need to be encoded accurately so that the patient can receive the highest quality of care.
Medical billing and coding specialists usually work full-time in an office environment. However, hospitals may hire coders to work at night, on weekends, and holidays. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical records and health information technicians as a whole is projected to grow faster than average in the coming decade, at a rate of 21%. Increased use of electronic health records (EHRs) to keep track of patient records and the larger number of insured individuals will likely spur most of this growth. In 2012, the median annual wage for medical records and health information technicians was $34,160. Medical billers and coders can seek advancement within the field of health information technology though gaining further education.
As more people participate in the healthcare system, and the system itself becomes increasingly standardized, medical billing and coding specialists will be needed to ensure the smooth flow of information and payment for the care provided. This means that, while opportunities will be greatest in areas with large populations, prospects will generally be good in all regions, especially for those who have formal training and are familiar with the latest technology. Enter this growing healthcare field by exploring the medical billing and coding schools below.
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