If you are looking for a job in a fast-growing industry, then why not in healthcare? There are a number of fantastic jobs in healthcare that are available and not all of them are with patients. In fact, you can be part of this thriving industry and work behind the scenes with a career in medical billing and coding.
Medical billing and coding is an administrative job that has grown along with the other careers in the healthcare industry. Since healthcare is such a huge industry there are a number of jobs that are growing and at a rapid pace along with it.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical billing and coding jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 22% which is far above the average. By comparison, the average position grows by a rate of about 5-8% meaning that the outlook is very good for this profession.
Let’s take a closer look at this the position itself, how to get there and of course how to land a job in the field. As you will see medical billing and coding is similar to a secretarial position but with the added responsibility of communicating patient data to health insurance companies. Medical Billing and Coding.
You are likely asking yourself “what is medical billing and coding?” If you have ever been to a doctor’s office you will be familiar with the individual who communicates with your health insurance company.
This person ensures that your healthcare provider receives payment for their services and that your insurance company receives the right information. That information is encoded and entered into your health record. This is an easy way to keep track of your health information and to bill insurance companies for the services provided.
A healthcare claim is then processed and that is how a bill is generated. Therefore the individual in charge of medical billing and coding is responsible for running a large aspect of the office’s finances. These specialists work in a wide range of facilities including private offices, hospitals, and other healthcare-related centers. The position is typically full-time.
What is the expected salary of a medical billing and coding specialist?
According to the BLS, a “medical secretary” earned a median wage of $37,090 as of 2018. Like with most positions, location and employer will influence your earnings.
The type of office also has an impact on salary. Secretaries who worked in dentist offices earned an annual mean wage that was about $5,000 higher than those who worked in a physician’s office. There were more jobs in physicians offices, however. The top 10% in the field earned over $51,000 a year as of 2018. Obtaining a CPC certification may increase earnings by 10%. It is important to check with employers ahead of time to determine whether or not a certification is required.
Job Outlook For Medical Coding and Billing
The healthcare industry is a large industry with jobs continually increasing and often times at a rapid pace. As of 2018 Medical Billing and Coding jobs were increasing by a rate of 22%.
Medical secretary jobs as of 2018-2028 are increased by a rate of 16%. This is still far faster than the national average and a reverse trend compared to secretarial positions in other industries. The healthcare industry is different from others as trends and life expectancies are changing rapidly.
Additionally, there are new technologies in medical offices that require better trained individuals to run them. This is unlike other secretarial positions where technology actually has caused a decline in trends. The good news about learning medical billing and coding is that you have a much increased likelihood of securing a job and keeping a job years down the road.How Do I Become a Medical Billing and Coding Secretary?
If you are ready to start your career in medical billing and coding but are unsure how to proceed, then perhaps you should start with a few classes. This position requires that technicians assign a code to match a medical diagnosis. This means that you will either want to complete an American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) approved coding program, an American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) approved coding program, or an Associate degree in health information management or related field.
Associate’s Degree in Health Information Management
If you are looking for a CAHIIM-accredited program there are several online associate’s degrees available in the field of health information management. The programs typically require about two years to complete or 60-65 credit hours of course material. Here’s a quick glance at what you will be studying in an associate’s-level program.
- Introduction to Healthcare Information Systems
- Principles of Health Information Management
- Fundamentals of Healthcare Law and Ethics for Health Information Professionals
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Information Technology and Data Management
- Health Information Management and Leadership
- Health Sciences
- Diagnostic Coding
- Procedural Coding
- Foundations of Classification, Compliance and Reimbursement
- Foundations of Healthcare Quality
- Pathophysiology and Pharmacology
Most programs offer all or some combination of the above courses and the core learning courses typically include a course on insurance claim procedures, international classifications of disease (ICD) medical office technology and administration, medical terminology, and any related coding class.
What Does a Medical Billing and Coding Professional Do?
In short, a medical billing and coding specialist analyzes patient data and ensures that insurance companies are appropriately billed according to the results of that data.
Many medical offices have made the transition away from paper today to electronic data. It is important for a medical billing and coding specialist to have familiarity using computers. Some offices still use a paper system but many utilize some combination of the two. A number of offices will rely on you to help them make the transition away from paper to electronic filing. It is essential that you are able to remain flexible and have knowledge of up-to-date filing systems.
Another aspect of the job is that you cross check to ensure that data received is up-to-date and accurately recorded for each patient/ client in the healthcare setting. Accurate data ensures that insurers are able to reimburse and process claims effectively.
Perhaps the biggest skill required is that the individual has accurate knowledge of systems and how medical information is classified. You must have an understanding of codes and how information is classified and categorized per patient. Fortunately, these codes are universal.
A big issue that has arisen lately with regards to electronic medical data is the issue of security. When it comes to ethics a medical billing and coding specialist must maintain patient confidentiality. Data should remain safe and secure. Data must be HIPAA compliant.
What is HIPAA Compliance?
HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act was signed into law in 1996. The goal is to protect individuals from fraud and theft as information is gathered and transferred. There are 5 titles and the second title is the most relevant to medical billing and coding. Title II deals with “preventing medical healthcare fraud and abuse, administrative simplification and liability.” Patients have a right to privacy regarding their conditions, where they have received treatment and any and all fees paid by the individual.
Medical Billing and Coding Day-to-Day Duties
We discussed that much of what medical billers and coders do is to create a streamlined system that files and categorizes patient information. Additionally it is the responsibility of the specialist to ensure that patient data is safe and secured. Let’s take a look at some of the various duties to give you a better picture of a day in the life of a medical coding specialist.
- Organize Office Data
- Check Medical Records Data For Accuracy
- Update Data
- Input clinical Codes to Obtain Reimbursement from Insurance Companies
- Analyze patient data
- Review medical records
- Check for Errors and Ensure that Correct Codes are Used
- Communicate with insurance provider where necessary
- Secure Patient Data
Medical Billing and Coding Soft Skills
- Good Problem-solver
- Effective Communication With Patients and Insurance Companies
- Team Player
- Detail Oriented
- Willing to Learn
Profile of a Medical Billing Professional
When it comes to a career as a medical billing and coding specialist, it may be true that you possess the knowledge but is that enough to determine whether or not you are a good fit.
A medical billing and coding professional is an individual who is well organized and a great communicator. As this is a public-facing position it is important for the individual to present with a positive demeanor and to be able to communicate clearly with patients and clients.
The person in this position must be comfortable spending multiple hours a day working at a desk and sitting at a computer as the majority of this position requires time filing paperwork electronically and inputting codes.
Like with all positions it is important for the individual to be able to troubleshoot problems so any individual looking to pursue a career as a medical billing and coding specialist will be patient and positive. Things are going to go wrong where insurance is concerned and it will be your job to maintain a professional demeanor despite problems and issues.
This person will need to pay attention to detail to ensure they input information accurately and effectively.
An ability to speak to a variety of people is important as the medical billing and coding specialist will speak to physicians, patients, and insurance companies regularly throughout the day.
Do I Match The Job Quick Glance
While there are obviously a number of personalities that excel in medical billing and coding roles, below are some of the most common personality and skill-related traits that excellent medical billing and coding professionals share.
- Detail Oriented
- Communicates With Many Types of People
- Sharp on a Computer
- Remains Calm
Jobs Related to Medical Coding and Billing
- Reimbursement and coding specialist
- Certified Medical Biller
- Medical Coder
- Health Information Specialist
- Health Information Technician
- Medical Secretary
- Medical Records Receptionist
- Medical Billing Clerk
- Diagnostic Radiology Coder
- Medical Coding Auditor
- Medical Records Analyst
A number of these jobs have overlap or are identical to a job as a medical billing and coding specialist.
How Do I Become a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist?
Lately it seems like you need a certification to do just about everything. That is the trend for medical billing and coding. While you can find a job and learn on-the-job you are likely going to need to take a few courses or complete a degree in medical billing and coding.
You can choose to complete a professional certification course or a degree. Before applying for a degree, check around for job listings in your area. Read through the qualifications section and determine what you will likely need to land a job in your area. Check also for on-the-job training opportunities. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers a number of certification courses that are much faster than a degree and likely will be enough to help you land an entry-level job. If you are looking to advance your career you can then consider an associate’s or even a bachelor’ degree.
CPC: Certified Professional Coder. The most recognized certification.
COC: Certified Outpatient Coder. Rapidly Growing for Emergency Departments and Other Outpatient Facilities
CIC: Certified Inpatient Coder. A specific niche of coding used in inpatient facilities.
Certified Risk Adjustment Coder: This individual is highly skilled and able to read medical charts.
Specialty Certification: This is for experienced coders.
There are many more certifications out there. We recommend checking with your future employer to determine what is necessary.
Should I Take Online Courses in Medical Billing and Coding?
There are a number of reasons to head back to school to study medical billing and coding. Online education is far different from studying in-person and may be a great fit. On the other hand, online education is not for everyone. Here’s a quick look at whether or not an online certificate or degree in medical billing and coding may or may not be right for you.
Online Degree Pros
- Fast- online degrees offer shorter semesters which makes for an accelerated overall pace.
- Affordable- as you spend fewer years in school, online degrees are often more affordable than programs taken in person
- Convenient- for many working professionals an online degree is the only way they can fit school into their busy schedule.
- Flexible- you can pursue your online degree anywhere and at any time.
Online Degree Cons
- Less Social- You will learn the material but not in the presence of peers or others with similar interests
- Less time with a professor- it can be difficult to schedule time with a professor as it is and often times is much more difficult when you are taking an online class
- Unless you’re self-driven can be difficult to get motivated
- Not Great for Hands-on Learning unless the program requires a practicum
What to Ask Before Beginning an Online Program
- How Much Free Time Do I Have?
- Is This The Only Barrier to Entry to this Job?
- Is this the right degree for me?
- Do I have Funding to Cover the Program and the Time Spent on it?
- Will This Program Prepare Me for a Career in the Field?
- Is this Program Accredited?
- How Long Will it Take to Complete This Program?
If you don’t have a positive response to each question that is okay. Sometimes it will still be necessary to begin a program in medical billing and coding. These courses and certifications won’t last forever but your career will help to carry you through to success in your life. It may be necessary to take the time to complete a medical billing and coding degree.
Technological Skills Necessary for Medical Billing and Coding Technicians
- Coding Software
- Accounting Software
- Accurate Data Entry
- Medical Software
- Word Processing Software
- ICD20 Consult
- STAT ICD-10 Coder
Additionally it is important for the coder to know the piece of software that matches their role. Specific certifications available through the AAPC will help you to learn the software necessary on the job.
How Long Will it Take to Become a Medical Billing and Coding Technician?
Your program of choice and the amount of free time you have to devote to the pursuit will determine the pace of learning. Generally speaking, however if you choose to pursue a certification in medical billing those certification will take less than a year to complete. An associate’s degree will take about 2 years to complete from start to finish. Should you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in health informatics, that will typically take about 4 years to complete. The CPC certification does require some work experience to obtain which may be completed on the job.
How to Become a Medical Coder Quick Guide
We hope you have gleaned enough information from this piece on what you can do with a medical billing and coding degree. The job continues to grow and with the right certification continues to grow in pay. This is an excellent choice for a career in the healthcare industry. To sum things up we created this quick reference guide.
One: Use research to determine which jobs are available in your area. A quick job search will reveal which certification programs to enroll in.
Two: Do a little soul-searching to determine if you would be a good fit for this career. Thinks like: do I like talking to the public and am I obsessed with detail? Are important areas to explore.
Three: Determine if you wish to pursue certification in person online or not at all.
Four: Initiate your course in medical billing and coding
Five: Complete and pass your certification examination
Six: Polish up your resume and start applying to positions
Seven: Interview for jobs and start your career!
That is really it! Medical billing and coding is a fantastic option for any individual looking for a growing job in the field of healthcare.