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Medical Billing and Coding Programs

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Medical billing and coding professionals record, organize and manage health care information in both electronic and paper systems. They are responsible for ensuring that records are easily accessible to health care providers, accurate, secure and of the highest possible quality. These records are essential for insurance reimbursement, long-term treatment plans, and various registries and databases.

To become a medical billing and coding professional, you must earn a certificate or graduate from an associate degree program that focuses on medical billing and coding. Most employers prefer that applicants be professionally certified as well.

Medical Billing and Coding Programs

Medical billing and coding professionals must graduate with a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree in health information technology, billing and coding or a similar field. Some employers require certification after the degree or certificate is received.

Courses included in medical billing and coding schools can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Medical Terminology -- understanding the language of medicine, including terms for each section of the body, procedures and pharmacology.
  • Software Applications -- learning to handle the variety of software used in the health care profession, specifically the software that allows for billing and coding for various health institutions, insurance companies and similar organizations.
  • Anatomy and Physiology -- the structure and function of different organs and systems in the human body, and an understanding of cellular biology.
  • Pharmacology -- a basic understanding of medications and their administration, including dosages, interactions, conversions and documentation.
  • Medical Insurance and Billing -- this class covers the various requirements of insurance companies and medical providers, including reimbursement, third-party rules and theories of billing.
  • Medical Coding -- focuses on basic coding principles, such as the study of nomenclature and classification systems for medical conditions, medical procedures, and more.
  • Medical Office Management -- understanding the requirements and best practices in an office setting, including software skills, privacy and managing patient information.

In addition to courses that can be taken in the classroom or online, medical billing and coding training often involves clinical work that prepares students for the rigors of medical billing and coding in a fast-paced health care setting. Check with medical billing and coding schools to confirm what the guidelines are for a particular program.

Certification and Licensure

Though certification is not required to enter the medical billing and coding profession, many employers look favorably upon applicants who have earned certification. In addition, some states require certification for certain areas within medical billing and coding, such as cancer patients and treatment.

Certification usually requires passing an exam that tests skills and knowledge earned during the training program. Certification might also require renewal on a regular basis and continuing education courses to stay up to date on the latest trends and changes in the profession. Two of the most common certifications include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR). More information on certification and how to obtain it can be found at the American Academy of Professional Coders website.

Work Environment and Typical Responsibilities

The vast majority of medical billing and coding professionals work in hospitals or offices of physicians, usually spending many hours in front of a computer. Most work full time, and since hospitals are open 24 hours, some medical billing and coding professionals will work evening and overnight shifts. Medical billing and coding professionals often work directly with other office employees, physicians and other health care professionals, but do not engage in direct patient care.

The general responsibilities of a medical billing and coding professional include:

  • Organizing and maintaining data on a variety of patients
  • Tracking patient outcomes in order to help assess the quality of care
  • Reviewing patient records for accuracy and completeness of health information
  • Protecting the patient's right to privacy of their records
  • Working with software to electronically record and store patient information
  • Understanding classification software for proper analysis and reimbursement

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that medical records and health information technicians made a national median annual salary of $34,160 in May 2012. The job outlook for the profession is expected to be good, with projected growth of 21 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Sources:

American Academy of Professional Coders: Certification
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics
Kaplan University: Medical Billing and Coding Certificate


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