A Closer Look: Careers in Medical Billing and Coding

Not everyone wants to have a job sitting at a computer all day. Some people aren’t detail oriented, or technologically inclined. However, if such a job is something you would like to pursue, starting a career in the field of Medical billing and coding could yield you a good job.

A different side of the medical field, photo by attercop311

A different side of the medical field, photo by attercop311

These jobs fall under a few different heading, as do the long distance education programs: it’s usually medical coding and billing, but might also be found under medical record technician, or health information technician. These workers handle the sensitive patient files and records – and to anyone who’s ever worked in a medical or dental office, you know that the amount of records they keep is staggering. It requires rigorous attention to detail, and meticulous organization skills.

What does a medical coder actually do? Basically, they help maintain a doctors office, hospital, or other health organization by using data management. Information is essential in the medical field, and everything has to be documented. The coder has to take all that data (diagnosis, prescriptions, procedures) and accurately enter it into the proper databases. This is not just for billing purposes, or for insurance purposes, but also to maintain a clear and accurate history of each patient. The coder has to handle and organize the actual physical files, as well as translating them into a database, and ensuring the accuracy of the information in that database.

This is a job that requires skills, but it doesn’t require an extensive education. A two year AA degree used to be enough to get started in the job, but now additional certification may also be required. Having a Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration or Health Information Management would be a huge bonus, mind you, and would open up more management opportunities, but a Bachelor’s degree is not required to work in the field.

There are many different on line options for getting a certificate for medical billing and coding. The most prestigious of them is the AAPC, the American Academy of Professional Coders. They run an intensive four month course for physician-based coding, that costs about fifteen hundred dollars. AHIMA is the American Health Information Management program, which focuses on facility-based coding, and offers both a certificate program and a degree program.

A certification program, or degree program, will both feature many of the same courses, focusing heavily on important features of the job like medical terminology, the ethics of health care, basic record keeping and organization, and HIPAA compliance and federal regulations. Other courses will focus more on the computer aspect of the job, medical billing, medical reimbursement, insurance, and electronic health records.

But those are the two major organizations; they are good places to start your search for more information, because of their prestige, but there are literally dozens of other distance learning programs out there to get you started.

The Department of Labor lists this field as one of job growth, possibly increases by as much as twenty percent in the next decade.

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