The demand for skilled and knowledgeable medical billers is growing for many reasons. As the medical industry has become more and more computerized, staff is needed to create and maintain computerized medical documents and bills. As the population ages, increasing medical coverage is falling under Medicare, which is heavy with computerized “paperwork”. Ancillary medical services, such as lab work, x-rays and prescriptions are also more dependent on computerized medical records. All of this has created a career field that expects over 25% job growth over the next several years. It is clear that becoming a medical biller is a lucrative career opportunity. Below are discussed the different types of career paths for a medical biller.
Unlike becoming a doctor or nurse, this type of medical career doesn’t require professional schooling and a license. However, the vast majority of medical billing jobs do require a significant and specific types of knowledge and skills. Therefore, almost all of these jobs require some sort of specialized schooling, even if they are entry-level (no prior work experience).
The two main ways to get this needed knowledge is to get a diploma in medical coding and billing, or get a degree in this field. There a numerous schools, online and physical campus, that offer these diploma programs. These programs typically take between six to 12 months to complete. The other education path is to get an associates degree in medical coding and billing. These degree programs are offered online and on campus by private schools and many community colleges throughout the country. These degree programs typically take between 16 – 24 months to complete.
While there are jobs available, especially entry level, with having a diploma – there are better medical billing jobs that require (or strongly prefer) an Associate’s Degree. This is especially true for positions that are in bigger institutions such as hospitals and large clinics. Also, salaries are usually higher for these positions and career growth into management is much more likely.
Future personal and career growth is also made possible with a degree, especially from a community college. Many of these colleges have agreements with four year colleges and universities, that allow students to transfer their associate degree credits to count towards getting a bachelor’s degree. Plus, that bachelor’s degree can be in a different major in most cases, thus allowing you more options and opportunities.
Another important advantage is that in most cases you will be eligible to receive various federal financial aid, which may not be the case in a diploma program.
The exact curriculum of an Associate’s Degree in Medical Billing and Coding varies from school to school, but the following are some of the normal courses required in such a degree program:
Core Courses (38.0 Credits)
• Introduction to Computers 2.5 credits
• Introduction to Healthcare Communication 3.0 credits
• Introduction to Medical Billing 4.0 credits
• Medical Terminology 4.0 credits
• Medical Law, Ethics, and Records Management 4.0 credits
• Diagnostic Coding for MAA/MOBS 4.0 credits
• Procedural Coding for MAA/MOBS 4.0 credits
• Healthcare Reimbursement and Claim Cycle 2.5 credits
• Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathophysiology I 4.0 credits
• Diversity in Healthcare Settings 3.0 credits
Additional Degree Requirements (9.0 Credits)
• Computer Fundamentals 3.0 credits
• Interpersonal Professional Communications 3.0 credits
• Patient Relations 3.0 credits
General Education Courses (15.0 Credits)
Some of the more common everyday duties and tasks include:
• Review medical data in a timely fashion.
• Keep data well organized at all times.
• Ensure medical records are complete and accurate.
• Input clinical codes into medical classification software so that providers and/or patients can get reimbursed by insurance companies.
• Assure that patients’ data is kept confidential at all times.
• Review a patient’s medical records for any preexisting conditions and/or previous care to make sure that the data is coded the right way.
• Use the correct codes when a patient gets a medical diagnosis to help healthcare providers administer proper care, and ensure healthcare facilities submit the necessary information to obtain reimbursement from insurance.
• Liaise between the healthcare facility and insurance companies.
As can be seen from the above lists of needed knowledge, skills and tasks, a solid education is important for not just becoming a medical biller, but also for career growth as one. Getting an Associate’s Degree will take about one extra year of time compared to a diploma, but the immediate and long term benefits make that extra year a very worthwhile investment.