What is Medical Billing and Coding?
Even though "medical billing and coding" is often referred to as though it's a single career, in reality medical billing and medical coding are two separate functions and two unique jobs. There's a very specific task flow that includes both medical billers and medical coders. Read on to learn what you'll do in each:
Medical coders update patient files using a universally recognized coding system (ICD-10 index) to ensure compliance with federal regulations and insurance requirements. They first decipher a doctor, nurse, surgeon, technician or nurse practitioner's notes and determine which procedure and diagnosis code best reflect the treatment and services provided by the medical team.
Coders often must confer with the physician or medical team to clarify diagnosis and procedures to make sure they are interpreting the patient's chart correctly.
Medical billing is a subspecialty of medical coding. Although there are programs that offer medical billing training by itself, a program that combines both billing and coding in one will be more complete, since medical coding is the first step in the medical billing process.
Medical billers take the assigned codes and the patient's insurance information and enter them into the hospital or medical facility's billing software and then submit these to the insurance company for payment. Medical billers will often have contact with both patient and insurance company after this data is entered. Billers also explain any charges or insurance issues, such as co-pays, to the patient.
Both of these jobs work together to make sure claims are processed accurately and thoroughly and that the medical facility or physician is paid for rendered services in a timely fashion.
Medical Billing and Coding Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual salary for medical records and health information technicians is $35,900, with the top 10 percent earning more than $59,160. People in this job may also anticipate great job growth, says the BLS, with the field expecting to grow 15 percent through 2024, which is much faster than average for all other career fields combined. Read the medical billing and coding salary article to learn more about what you can expect to make. Learn what kind of things affect your earning potential and what you can do to boost your wages.
Work at Home
One nice perk of a medical biller or medical coder career is the ability to build a clientele and work from home or as a contractor for several medical facilities or offices. While this may sound ideal if you have kids or other obligations, there's more to starting your at-home medical billing or coding business than installing software on your computer and letting doctors know you're open for business. To avoid the heartache of starting a business that loses money, or being taken advantage of by medical coding software scams, here are two important articles you should read first:
Benefits of Being a Medical Biller & Coder
Few professions offer as much flexibility and mobility as medical billing and coding. We talked about one perk for the profession above but what are some of the others you might be able to take advantage of as a medical biller or coder?
Here are just a few perks to consider:
- If you decide to work from home, you can start your home business with low overhead. You'll need a computer and access to the medical software your clientele uses to get started.
- You can get your education online. Medical Billling and Coding is ideal to learn in an online program. You'll be working online so why not study online as well?
- Completing your education can take as little as two or three months, depending upon your accredited school and program. You'll be ready to begin working before you know it.
- As a medical biller and coder you'll be part of a career field that's always in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster than average job growth for the job.
- Flexible hours may be part of the job. Hospitals, for example, are always open, so you might be able to work evenings or weekends if you so desire.
- Avoid the physical stress of other healthcare careers. Other healthcare fields that have fast completion times often revolve around patient care and the physical labors that come with it. As a medical biller and coder you'll work behind the scenes, either in an office or the comfort of your home office.
Potential Careers and Workplaces
Medical billers and coders can consider several career routes. Either you can expand your home business and become an employer of freelance or contract coders and billers or you can go back to school to earn more education.
If this is the path you decide to take, you'll find these types of roles could expand upon your initial education and provide advanced career options:
- Health informatics specialist
- Cancer registrar
- Electronic health records technician or specialist
- Clinical manager
- Hospital coding manager
You won't just be limited to working in a doctor's office or your home office however. Take a look at some of the workplaces you might choose to practice in as a medical biller or coder:
- Physician's office
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Insurance companies
- Scientific services
- Technology support departments
Medical Billing and Coding School
If you're planning to head to medical billing and coding school, you probably have questions about courses, financial aid and accreditation. The good news is there are several financial aid options for those desiring to get an education in the field. But one of the first things you should assess prior to enrolling in any program is whether or not it's been accredited, either by a regional accrediting agency (there are six, based on location) or one of two professional associations. Accreditation ensures that your program is high quality and has been studied and evaluated by experts in the field. When you're researching schools and programs, look for these accrediting agencies:
Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)–They accredit general medical and billing and health informatics programs
Head over to our medical billing and coding training page to get answers to your questions.
Medical Billing and Coding Certification
Getting your degree and completing your accredited program are the first steps to success as a medical biller or coder. But if you're dedicated to moving ahead of the pack and really excelling in your chosen career, you'll want to consider earning your certification. Certification assures employers that you have the best professional qualifications to do your job. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers several types of professional certifications and specialty credentials, as does the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). To learn about the different certifications and designations you can earn, visit our Medical Coding and Billing Certification page.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Programs
More and more, online programs are gaining popularity and credibility in the educational and professional worlds. And online programs are readily available for medical billers and coders, but it's especially important to make sure your online program is accredited. Most employers will hire a candidate who has graduated from an accredited program over a non-accredited school, so always look for this important designation.
Online programs offer flexibility for people who may have family responsibilities, need to work while they attend school, live in a rural or remote area or are in the military, or may have a disability that makes traveling to a traditional school difficult.
Learn all about Online Medical Billing and Coding Courses.
Medical Biller and Coder Traits and Skills
Are you right for a medical billing or medical coding job? Medical billers and coders, also known as medical records and health technicians, are part of a growing area of health care. This in-demand career won't call for you to provide any patient care, but you will be interfacing with physicians and other health care professionals regularly. Here are some skills and traits you should have to excel in the field:
|You are...||You should have...|
|Detail-oriented||Excellent communication skills|
|Analytical||Basic computer skills|
|Patient||High ethical standards|