Interested in training for a new career in medical billing and coding? March is the perfect time to think about it, with Health Information Professionals Week celebrated from March 22-28. Medical billing and coding is also a fast-growing occupational field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for medical records and health information specialists (the career category that includes medical billers and coders) should grow by 11% over the 2018-2028 period, adding 23,100 new jobs nationwide.[i]
In addition to strong projected job growth, medical billing and coding makes an important contribution to today’s increasingly technology-enhanced healthcare services. To give you an idea of why that is, consider this: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that there were 883.7 million visits to physicians in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available.[ii] Each and every one of those visits will have generated multiple medical billing and coding entries. That’s billions of pieces of data every year.
All of that data provides information to practitioners, insurance companies, researchers, and patients. Here are four ways medical billing and coding play important roles in supporting better, more efficient healthcare service.
Medical Coding Creates a Record of Patient Health
Medical coding is the practice of assigning a code to every diagnosis, treatment, and procedure a patient receives, as well as the supplies used. Over time, this data builds up a detailed picture of an individual patient. That picture offers every practitioner who sees the patient access to his or her medical history. Practitioners can use this data to spot patterns in a patient’s conditions, look out for adverse reactions to medications, and much more.
Thanks to modern digital technology, these patient records are easily accessible to practitioners who are granted access to them. The medical codes in a patient’s records also form the basis for medical billing procedures and for medical research data.
Medical Billing Keeps Payments Flowing
Medical billing is the practice of translating medical codes into claims for payment. Medical billing is how doctors get paid by insurance organizations, including public insurance providers like Medicare and Medicaid or private insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna Health.
In addition to helping practitioners get paid, medical billers ensure that insurance companies provide accurate coverage of costs or reimbursements to patients.
Medical Billing and Coding Can Catch Errors and Duplicate Treatments
Both medical billers and coders can spot problems and flag up potential errors that could create unnecessary costs or potentially harm patients. For example, a medical coder may note that a hospital recorded providing a patient with two CAT scans of the same body part within five minutes during one visit—most likely an error, but one that could lead to very costly bills if not followed up on.
Medical Coding Contributes to Public Health Research
Finally, medical billing and coding data creates the statistics public health officials and healthcare researchers need to track how diseases progress through the population. Each year, for example, health officials use medical coding data to track how seasonal flu spreads. You can also bet that the work medical coders are doing now will help researchers to understand the current pandemic, too.
This practice is not new to the digital age. In fact, the earliest known example of doctors solving a public health problem using medical records goes back to 1854, when a doctor named John Snow used hospital records to trace an outbreak of cholera in London to one contaminated water pump.[iii] However, today’s medical billers and coders generate data much more quickly and accessibly—meaning researchers can protect the public more effectively.
Train for a Medical Billing and Coding Career
If you’re fascinated by health science, detail oriented and technologically savvy, medical billing and coding could be the right career path for you.
Altierus Career College offers an eight-month medical billing and coding diploma program that teaches medical terminology, procedural and diagnostic coding standards, insurance processing and collection strategies, and more. You’ll also receive preparation for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification exam. Visit our website to find out more today!