Medical billing and coding is a highly specialized profession within the field of medical administration. Although medical billing and medical coding are actually separate areas of expertise, but are often conflated due to an overlap in required skills. Billing and coding professionals are responsible for translating patient information in alpha-numeric code that is then transferred between health care providers and insurance companies in order to create accurate billing and payment information.
Medical billing and coding is one of the fastest growing sectors in the health care industry due to the increase in reliance on information technology to store and retrieve medical data. Job outlook is positive for medical billing and coders as there is a shortage of qualified professionals to fill the many positions currently available. Additionally, medical billing and coding professionals are able to demand a higher salary due to their specialized skill-set.
Individuals who wish to work in the field of medical administration are well advised to seek a career in medical billing and coding. The primary reason is the entry-level pay will be higher than that for those of comparative healthz care professionals in the field. This is due to the fact that the health industry has become reliant on information technology more quickly than there have been professionals with the expertise to use the technology. Simple medical billers will not earn as much as those who augment their skills with medical coding proficiency.
The particular salary for medical billing and coding professionals depends on a few factors. Their level of education, certification (if any), and experience are the most pertinent, however other determining factors include the size of employer and geographic location. Medical coders working for large hospitals in densely populated urban areas with high living costs will earn a higher salary. The good news is that most entry-level salaries for medical billing and coding professionals will be quite high.
In general, average salary for a medical billing and coder runs between $38,000 and $50,000 per year. Medical billing and coding professionals at the top of their pay scale can earn in the excess of $74,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
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Training and Education Requirements
There is currently no set educational requirement to gain employment as a medical billing and coding professional. However, individuals who want to guarantee a high salary in the first years of work should seek some type of formal training. Another reason why medical billing and coding professionals should enroll in education training courses is that medical coding is an extremely specialized field and requires that professionals be knowledgeable about several different coding systems.
Individuals with a high school diploma have the option of enrolling in a 2-year associates degree in medical billing and coding or a 4-year bachelors degree. Those who already have a degree in a related field can earn a certificate or diploma to augment their education with healthcare specific skills.
The typical course load for medical billing and coding specialists includes the basics of medicine, such as anatomy, physiology, pathology and diagnoses. These are essential subjects as the medical coder is required to understand medical jargon in order to translate it into accurate alpha-numeric code. Other subjects will cover business operations, basic office procedures, the use of medical billing software, and insurance claims processes. Medical coding students will also study the different systems used by the healthcare industry to communicate complicated information. In-depth programs will cover ICD-9-CM, CPT/HCPCS, DSM-IV, and ICPM (International Classification of Procedures in Medicine).
Job Description and Outlook
Medical billing and coding specialists work within the administrative sector of the healthcare industry. The most basic definition of their job is to accurately convert patient information into medical code. Patient information includes everything from health and treatment history to diagnosis. This information is used by both health care providers and insurance companies to ascertain the precise amount of payment owed to both parties. Accuracy and attention to detail is an essential part of being a successful medical billing and coding professional.
In order to perform their job, medical billing and coding professionals must be knowledgeable about several different coding systems depending upon their place of employment. As different systems are used to represent different elements of a patient’s medical history, as well as different branches of the healthcare industry, the most versatile coders will have knowledge of the entire range. For example, the Level 1 HCPCS coding system is used by hospital providers while the Level 2 HCPCS is used by hospitals and physicians. Diagnoses are coded using the DRG coding system.
Job outlook for medical billing and coders is very good. The demand for professionals is expected to increase by 18%. As the healthcare industry continues to shift patient documentation from paper to data storage, job openings for medical billing and coding professionals will also increase.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Certification is voluntary for medical billing and coding specialists. However, individuals who do seek certification are more competitive in the job market. Certification is an excellent way to demonstrate a high standard of professionalism and knowledge. There are several national and local organizations that offer certification for medical billing and coding professionals. The requirements for certification vary among the organizations, but generally a combination of formal training and on-the-job experience, along with the passage of an exam, are sufficient to earn a certification.
There are several associations available to professionals who wish to become certified as a medical billing and coding professional.
The American Association of Medical Billers (AAMB) offers a Certified Medical Biller (CBM) and Certified Medical Billing Specialist (CMBS) credential after the passage of an exam.
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is a national organization that offers 3 credentials to medical billing and coders: Certified Procedural Coder (CPC), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), and Certified Coding Specialist for the Physician (CCS-P).
American Guild of Patient Account Management (AGPAM) offers several types of certification to medical coders: Certified Patient Account Technician (CPAT), Certified Clinic Account Technician (CCAT), Certified Patient Account Manager (CPAM), and Certified Clinic Account Manager (CCAM).
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