What Does it Mean to Study Medical Billing and Coding?
Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals may be passionate about helping sick and injured individuals, but they can't do their job for free. Health care billing is a complex, time consuming, but necessary part of any medical practice. In order to focus their energy on helping patients, medical offices hire office staff to help with billing and other duties. Earning a medical billing and coding degree is a great way to begin your career and become an integral part of a health care team.
Medical billing departments are responsible for making sure that the office gets paid. When it comes to financial matters, billing departments serve as a link between patients, doctors, insurance companies, and government agencies. As a medical billing and coding major, you can expect to learn how to prepare and enter complex coding systems so that the facility can properly document statistics and receive financial reimbursement from the correct payee. You may also be required to contact the financially responsible party to ensure that prompt payment is made.
After earning a degree in medical billing and coding, most graduates find themselves working in some type of health care facility. Common work environments include physician offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. Their specific duties may depend on the size and scope of the facility at which they work. Regardless, billing and coding is one of the more important operational departments in any medical facility. Due to the complex nature of today's health care system, graduating with a medical billing and coding degree can help you get the training you need to land a job in this necessary field.
Types of Degrees in Medical Billing and Coding
Medical facilities are constantly looking for staff members trained to handle the complicated process of billing and coding. Pursuing a medical billing and coding major is an excellent way to earn the skills and experience needed for entry-level employment in this field. Additionally, most positions require no more than completion of a postsecondary training program.
Medical billing and coding degree programs can generally be found at three different levels: certificate or diploma programs, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees. Certificate and diploma programs focus solely on the professional skills needed to quickly graduate and begin working. Degree programs generally provide a broader educational experience. Regardless of the track chosen, all of these programs are a great fit for online learners.
Online degrees in medical billing and coding allow students to study at a time that is convenient for them. Because lectures and class materials are generally available on a 24-hour basis, students can study anywhere and at any time they please. Most of the material is easily taught via online lectures, reading materials, and assignments. Online degrees are especially beneficial for adult learners with families, or for those who need to hold down their current job while they study.
Undergraduate Certificates in Medical Billing and Coding
Unlike some other positions in the health care field, beginning a career in medical billing and coding doesn't require a student to commit years of their life to pursuing a degree. It can also be considerably more affordable. Many entry-level positions only require completion of a postsecondary certificate or diploma program. Whether offered in-person or online, these programs usually can be completed in approximately one year of full-time study. After graduation, employers may also require their employees to earn a professional certification. Typical courses at the certificate level include:
- Introduction to Health Information Systems
- Principles of Current Procedural Terminology
- Basics of Anatomy and Physiology
- Coding for Pharmaceuticals
Associate Degrees in Medical Billing and Coding
While career training programs may be enough to land an entry-level position, some employers prefer to hire candidates holding an associate degree. These degree programs provide students with the career skills needed to be successful while also introducing students to a variety of other educational disciplines. When studying full-time, students pursuing a medical billing and coding degree at the associate level can expect to finish school in about two years. Although courses vary by institution, typical topics include:
- Basic Computer Applications
- Introduction to Health Care Delivery Systems
- Medical Terminology
- Coding Systems for Medical Diagnosis
- Coding Systems for Medical Procedures
Bachelor's Degrees in Medical Billing and Coding
Although entry-level careers in medical billing and coding generally require vocational training or an associate degree, students seeking a more advanced degree may wish to complete their studies at the bachelor's degree level. In addition to increased general education requirements and studying medical billing and coding practices, bachelor's degrees usually require an in-depth study of health care management as a whole. These programs may be a good fit for those already working in the field and seeking advancement. A medical billing and coding major can expect to complete their bachelor's degree in about four years when studying full-time. An in-person practicum or internship may be required prior to graduation, even for those pursuing an online degree. These hands-on learning experiences are typically completed at local medical facilities. Common courses might include:
- Fundamentals of Health Information Technology
- Data Management for Healthcare
- Intermediate Coding and Classification Systems
- Ethics in Health Information Management
- Financial Considerations for Health Care Management
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Medical Billing and Coding?
By completing a medical billing and coding degree program, graduates open the door to a variety of careers inside the health care industry. Most commonly, medical billing and coding graduates find work on the office staff of a health care facility. Some positions may require additional training, licensure, or professional certifications. The following health care careers may be suited to those who have completed their medical billing and coding training:
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Medical records and health information technicians are responsible for managing and organizing patient data in both electronic and paper formats. They assign and record the proper coding for billing and statistical tracking. Additionally, they may be required to report certain data to tracking registries or databases. Technicians may decide to specialize in specific job titles, such as a coding specialist or cancer registrar.
- Minimum Educational Requirement: Completion of a postsecondary certificate or diploma training program is often required. Some employers seek candidates who have an associate degree.
- Special Certifications or Licensures: Most entry-level positions do not require special certification or licensure, although some employers may seek candidates who have earned their professional certifications. In some states, cancer registrars are required to hold a license.
Medical and Health Services Mangers
Medical and health services managers are responsible for managing the operations of a medical facility, practice, or specific department within a health care facility. They are tasked with preparing and maintaining budgets, creating and implementing schedules for staff members, and ensuring that all areas under their supervision comply with any legal requirements. They are in constant communication with staff members and seek ways to balance quality care with efficient delivery.
- Minimum Educational Requirement: At a minimum, medical and health services managers are required to earn a Bachelor's degree. Many employers prefer to hire managers with master's degrees.
- Special Certifications or Licensures: Required licensures and certifications vary by state, position, and type of facility being managed. Not all positions require licensure or certification. However, all nursing home administrators must be licensed by the state in which they work.
Medical assistants can be found working in almost every type of medical facility. They assist nurses and doctors with both patient care and administrative duties. Some of their tasks may include scheduling appointments, recording patient information, and taking a patient's vital signs. When working in larger operations, medical assistants often specialize in either clinical assisting or administrative assisting.
- Minimum Educational Requirement: Medical assistants usually need to complete a postsecondary medical assistant training program.
- Special Certifications or Licensures: Most states do not require medical assistants to be licensed. Professional certification may improve a candidate's marketability and can be earned through a number of organizations.
A medical transcriptionist listens to a physician's voice recording and transcribes it into a written report. Because of new technologies, they may also review reports that have been drafted by voice recognition software, ensuring that the report is accurate and free of errors. They may also be tasked with entering these reports into electronic records systems.
- Minimum Educational Requirement: Completion of a vocational program that offers a certificate or diploma is typically required to obtain employment.
- Special Certifications or Licensure: Professional certification is voluntary and can be completed through a number of different organizations.
Medical Billing and Coding Salaries and Career Outlook Data
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||394,910||$115,160||17.6%|
|Medical Dosimetrists, Medical Records Specialists, and Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other||331,790||$46,590||-57.5%|
Medical Billing and Coding Associations and Organizations
Medical billing and coding professionals can join a number of organizations that support professional development and continuing education. Some of these organizations also award professional certifications. A few of the most popular include:
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) - This association provides numerous opportunities for professional growth and development, including online programs, conferences, and other events. They also award the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) and the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designations.
- AAPC - Formerly known as the American Academy of Professional Coders, this organization awards professional certifications for various business-related careers in the health carefield. Some certifications include the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Professional Biller (CPB), and the Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA) designations.
- American Medical Billing Association (AMBA) - The American Medical Billing Association provides networking opportunities and educational materials about industry-related regulations to their members. They also offer the Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) credential.
- Professional Association of Health Care Coding Specialists (PAHCS) - The PAHCS offers a number of professional certifications in coding which are based on the type of practice in which the coder works. Additionally, they offer certifications in health care office management and health carecoding instruction.
- BS in Health Information Management, Southern New Hampshire University, http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-health-information-management
- Medical and Health Services Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
- Medical Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm
- Medical Billing & Coding Undergraduate Certificate, DeVry University, http://www.devry.edu/degree-programs/health-sciences/medical-billing-coding-undergraduate-certificate.html
- Medical Coding and Billing (Associate of Applied Science), Grantham University, http://www.grantham.edu/online-degrees/medical-coding-and-billing/
- Medical Records and Health Information Technician, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
- Medical Transcriptionists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm