Students learn the fundamentals of medical office protocol in order to prepare for entry-level positions in the field. Some programs may include supervised externships where students can hone practical skills. Many programs are also designed to prepare students to take the national certification exams offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). To be admitted to one of these 2-year programs, a high school diploma or its equivalent is needed.
Associate Degree in Healthcare Reimbursement
Preparing patient records, scheduling patients, handling insurance arrangements, managing finances, and processing correspondence are among the skills students could build through the courses. They may develop the technical skills used in medical reimbursement and learn insurance coding and billing techniques. Common course topics include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes
- Medical billing and reimbursement
- Medical pathology
- International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Those who have completed a healthcare reimbursement program are prepared to assist doctors and other medical personnel with the administrative functions of a medical office. Medical office manager, medical billing clerk, and medical office coder are some of the potential job titles in this field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of medical records and health information technicians, which includes all of these positions, is expected to grow 11% from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). These professionals earned an annual median salary of about $40,350 as of May 2018, according to the BLS.
Certification and Continuing Education
Although becoming certified with AHIMA or AAPC is voluntary, the BLS states that most employers prefer hiring individuals who have earned industry certification. In addition, the AAPC reports that those who are certified earn 20% more than those who are not. Certifications are available to medical coders who work in various settings, including physician's offices, hospitals, and cardiovascular centers. Specialty certifications are also available for medical fields like surgery, urology, cardiology, and gynecology. To qualify to take an exam, a combination of education and experience is typically needed. To maintain certification, continuous review and education is also normally required.
Currently, there are not any degree programs specifically in healthcare reimbursement beyond the associate's degree level. However, those who wish to continue with their education may choose to study health information management at the bachelor's degree level. The coursework in these programs is similar to healthcare reimbursement associate's degree programs, but the studies are more in-depth and are designed to prepare students for managerial positions in many different medical settings. After earning the degree, students are qualified to take the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification exam.
Students interested in handling financial information and interacting with patients can earn an associate's degree in healthcare reimbursement. Graduates can expect positive job growth as medical records and health information technicians and will most likely need to obtain professional certification.