How to Become a Medical Billing and Coding Professional
Medical coding and billing professionals are responsible for ensuring that a medical facility is paid for the services it provides. In order to do this, they must be able to understand the notes from a health care provider and determine the appropriate code for the treatments a patient received. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), these professionals, also known as medical records and health information technicians, are seeing a rise in job opportunities because of the expanded use of electronic medical records, as well as the increased medical care that aging populations need. In order to succeed in these jobs, medical billers and coders must complete a number of steps to get the knowledge and skills they need.
Medical billing and coding program requirements and prerequisites
The first step in pursuing a career in medical billing and coding is to complete a high school diploma or its equivalent. During this time, it helps to study subjects such as biology, math, health, and computer science, as well as to volunteer in a doctor's office or clinic if given the opportunity.
Armed with the basic prerequisites, students can then go on to study medical coding and billing at a certificate program that takes about one year to complete, or an associate's degree program that students finish in about two years.
Necessary skills and qualifications for medical billing and coding
Medical coders and billers are required to deal with the minutia associated with providing quality care, because if services are not coded properly, it can become a logistical nightmare for a health facility. In order to ensure that the payments flow the way they should, these workers should be detail oriented and have strong analytical skills. In addition, medical coders and billers should have good communication skills because they need to be able to discuss billing concerns with medical professionals; technical skills that allow them to use specialized industry software; and integrity, as they are responsible for handling sensitive, confidential patient information.
Medical coding and billing workers are often required to obtain a professional certification in order to find employment. Common certifications available for members of the industry include Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR), Certified Professional Coder (CPC), and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). The requirements of certifications depend on which one professionals want to complete, but they generally include passing an examination, taking continuing education courses, or having a certain amount of hands-on experience in the field.
Medical records working environment
According to the BLS, the common places where medical coders and billers work are hospitals, nursing homes, government agencies, physicians' offices, home health service providers and outpatient care centers. These are full-time positions, and depending on where they work, coders and billers may be scheduled for evening and overnight shifts.
As of May 2013, the national annual median salary for medical records and health information technicians, which includes billers and coders, was $34,970, with the top-paid 10 percent earning at least $57,320 and the lowest-paid 10 percent earning up to $22,700. There is a growing need for these professionals, and the BLS projects a 22 percent increase in job growth between 2012 and 2022.
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Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292071.htm
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 28, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
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