Medical Billing and Coding Careers

Medical billing and coding careers are plentiful in the health sciences industry. The primary purposes for this work is to ensure insurance reimbursement for patient services and to collect data used in clinical databases and registries.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that this field is on the rise in the coming years, partly due to the increasing proportion of the population in the elderly age range.

Also contributing to a continued increase in job prospects in this field over the coming years is the shift from paper records to digital records for health and medical data, requiring more and more medical billers and coders to help complete the transition.

If you excel in technical and interpersonal skills, you are detail oriented and have keen analytical skills, then a career in medical billing and coding may be right for you. You could even choose to specialize to work specifically with the records of certain types of patients, like those seeking treatment for cancer.

What do medical records and health information technicians do?

Workers in medical billing and coding careers, also known as health information technicians, manage and organize information related to patient’s health and health care services. As a medical records and health information technician, your job is to ensure that the data you record remains accurate, accessible and secure.

You may work with both paper and electronic records while working as a technician. You will use a system of standardized classifications to categorize and code patient data into the formats insurance companies require in order to reimburse health care providers for the services they extend to patients. Medical billers and coders also record and manage patient information for other clinical registries and databases. In addition, they also keep patient medical histories and treatment histories up to date. Most work in medical billing and coding careers is full time.

Medical records and health information technicians generally work in an office environment and are likely to spend many hours at a desk in front of a computer. At times, they may be able to perform certain work from home. Other duties of a medical records and health information technician include:

  • Maintaining patient record confidentiality.
  • Recording data electronically for storage, collection, retrieval, analysis and reporting.
  • Assigning accurate procedure and diagnosis codes for billing, health statistics, population and patient care purposes.
  • Ensuring quality of services by tracking patient outcomes.
  • Reviewing patient data for pre-existing conditions to confirm the patient’s information is properly coded.
  • Acting as a liaison between the billing office and health care provider.

Among the specialties within medical billing and coding careers are cancer registrars, who specifically track patient data related to cancer diagnoses and treatments.

Credentials for Medical Billing and Coding Careers

In order to get work as a medical records and health information technician, you generally need a post-secondary certificate in medical billing and coding. However, some jobs may only require you to have a high school degree or the equivalent and a certain amount of related work experience. Other medical billing and coding jobs may require you to have a two-year associate’s degree, ideally in a related subject. Courses you will take for medical billing and coding typically include:

  • Computer systems.
  • Health care statistics.
  • Health care reimbursement methods.
  • Coding and classification systems.
  • Health data standards and requirements.

If you take courses in high school biology, math, computer science or health, it can improve your chances of getting into the medical records and health information technician certification program of your choice. Certifications in medical billing and coding careers include Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT).

Work experience in a related occupation is not required for most medical records and health information technician jobs, provided the proper education has been completed. Unfortunately, on-the-job training is rarely offered for these careers.

Job Outlook for Medical Billing and Coding Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects medical billing and coding career opportunities to increase by 13 percent over the decade between 2016 and 2026, with 27,800 estimated new jobs created in the field. These numbers are significantly greater than the projected growth rate for all occupations over the same period of time.

In 2016, there were already 206,300 medical billing and coding jobs. Over one-third of medical billing and coding careers can be found in private, local and state hospitals. About 20 percent can be found in physician offices. The remaining portion of medical billing and coding careers can be found in support and administrative services, technical, scientific and professional services, and nursing care or skilled nursing facilities.

Entry-level positions in medical billing and coding involve daily tasks in claim reconciliation, collections, payment posting, charge entry and data entry. After working as a medical biller and coder for enough time, you could advance to a job as a health or medical services manager. For such a position, a four-year bachelor’s or post-graduate master’s degree may be required, as well as additional certifications.

Each facility where you work has its own requirements. Furthermore, with skills, education and experience in medical billing and coding, you can also get billing and coding work in accounting, payroll, bookkeeping and tax preparation services, legal services, specialized design services, etc.

Salary for Medical Billing and Coding Careers

In 2017, the median pay for medical records and health information technicians was $39,180. The top 10 percent of earners in the field earned over $64,610 and the bottom 10 percent of earners in the field earned under $25,810.

Medical records and health information technicians in technical, scientific and professional services tend to make the most in the field, followed closely by those working in private, local and state hospitals. In the mid-salary range among medical billers and coders are those working in support and administrative services. The settings in which medical billing and coding careers pay the least are in physicians’ offices, followed closely by nursing care and skilled nursing facilities.

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