Prompt, accurate and effective payment and/or reimbursement for payment for medical services is a major concern of insurance providers, practitioners and patients. Medical billing and coding specialists are trained professionals whose duties are essential in establishing and maintaining the smooth and efficient operation of all aspects of communication in the field of healthcare.
Those who work in medical billing and coding are typically called medical records and health information technicians. These technicians are skilled in the complex system of medical invoicing for reimbursement and insurance. A common pathway for an entry-level position is completion of a 2-year degree or 1-year certificate program in medical billing and coding. Many technicians go on to become certified in a specialty area of the field.
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree|
|Certification||Voluntary, but may be preferred by employers|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||15%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$37,110|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medical records and health information technician is a job title commonly used to describe several positions in this field. This can include technicians who specialize in coding as well as those who focus on billing. These technicians work in healthcare-related environments, including hospitals, physicians' offices or insurance companies.
Technicians might choose to specialize in physician-based or hospital-based billing and coding. Additionally, some medical records and health information technicians become specialized in a specific field of medicine, such as gastroenterology or pediatrics. These billing and coding specialists have knowledge about the specific procedures of these medical specialties as it relates to billing and coding.
Medical Billing and Coding Job Requirements
Entry-level positions typically require completion of a certificate or an associate's degree program in medical billing and coding. These programs introduce students to commonly used classification systems, such as ICD-9, CPT, DSM-IV and HCPCS. Students engage in coursework that covers medical terminology and pathophysiology. They are trained in medical insurance and the various public and private providers, such as Medicare or Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Additionally, medical coders must have an understanding of laws and ethics related to health insurance, medical billing and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers typically prefer employees with certifications in the field, though this certification is not mandatory. The most common certification examination is the Certified Coding Assistant (CCA), which is administered through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). This exam is typically taken after graduating from a training program. After acquiring a few years of work experience, technicians are eligible to sit for the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) examination, which includes either a physician-based or hospital-based option.
Medical Billing and Coding Career Outlook
The BLS stated that the number of employed medical records and health information technicians was projected to grow 15% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average. These workers made a median yearly wage of $37,110 in May 2015, according to the BLS.
In most cases, you can qualify to become a medical records and health information technician with either a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree and specialize in hospital- or physician-based billing and coding. Though not mandatory, most employers prefer that employees are certified. With continued experience, you may qualify to sit for advanced or varied certification examinations.