Associate degrees in medical coding are commonly available online. These programs give students basic computer skills and knowledge of insurance codes used in billing and medical records. Some may be called health information technology. They generally take 18 months to two years to complete full-time.
Required courses may include medical terminology, health information coding and data entry. While coursework can be completed entirely online, practical experience through an internship at a local healthcare facility may be required.
Graduates of accredited programs are eligible to sit for the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) exam administered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). While certification is not required, many employers prefer to hire someone who holds this designation.
Online Associate Degree in Medical Coding
An online associate degree in medical coding provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the healthcare field as coding and billing specialists. Students develop basic computer skills and learn about the technical aspects of the medical insurance industry. Students study federal and state regulations, coding techniques for both hospitals and private practice doctors' offices, and basic administrative functions within a medical office.
Program Information and Requirements
An online associate degree program in medical coding comprises approximately 60 credit hours. The curriculum is composed of core medical coding and billing courses, general education requirements and several management classes. Coursework provides students with a basic knowledge of computerized billing, pharmacology, anatomy and business aspects of the medical billing and coding field. Through online class assignments, students gain valuable experience in preparing medical claims and billing statements.
Common Courses in Medical Coding
Online medical coding courses are typically offered with a great amount of flexibility to accommodate individual scheduling. Students enrolled on a full-time basis are usually expected to take approximately three courses each term.
Students are introduced to basic medical terminology used to describe various structures of the body, medical procedures, diseases and medical specialties. Topics include the skeletal, muscular, nervous and cardiovascular systems. Root words, prefixes and suffixes for common medical terms are also covered.
Diagnostic Coding Systems
Topics discussed include coding compliance, coding diagnosis, medical billing issues and the procedures for legal and ethical compliance. Students become familiar with the International Classification of Diseases Manual (ICD-9-CM) and learn how to extract coding information from this publication.
Health Information Management
This introductory course explores the structure and various components of today's healthcare system. Students examine patient confidentiality, the role of the physician, the structure of medical practices and the impact of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Individuals with an associate degree in medical coding are prepared for entry-level positions as medical coders and billers, medical reports specialists or medical billing clerks. Graduates may also find careers as medical records and health information technicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated employment for medical records and health information technicians will grow at a much faster than average rate of 15% between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports that, as of May 2015, the average annual salary for medical records and health information technicians was $40,430.
Continuing Education Information
In addition to the Certified Coding Associate credential offered by the AHIMA, specialty coding credentials are available through the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) and the Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC). According to the BLS, more and more employers prefer to hire credentialed medical coding professionals. Once earned, most credentials require individuals to complete continuing education opportunities in order to maintain and renew certification.
Students in online programs in medical coding and health information technology learn medical terminology, data entry procedures and coding techniques. While standard courses can be completed fully online, students complete an internship at a healthcare facility.