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What is Medical Billing and Coding? Covering the Basics

Posted Monday, Aug 7, 2017 by Kevin Arnold

You’ve been searching for a career that will get you where you want to be: professionally employed and with a competitive salary. The challenge is finding an industry where demand is high and you can get your foot in the door fast. If this is you, then medical billing and coding is a great place to start.

It’s a growing field

With your priority being a program that will lead to a stable career, you want to know how likely you’ll be able to get a job soon after graduation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health information technicians (the BLS category that includes MIBC) are expected to grow at a much faster rate than the average occupation — as high as 15% between now and 2024. With the increasing use of health care records, an aging population, and more and more people utilizing health insurance, the need for sound and accurate records is incredibly important.

Salary expectations

When you commit to a new career, you want to be sure you have strong earning potential and room to grow. The great news is that, according to the BLS, the entry-level wages for health information technicians, including those in medical billing and coding, is over $25K.

Median salary: $37,119; 10% earned less than $24,190 in May of 2016.
Leading paying industries: professional, scientific and technical services— closely followed by hospitals (state, local and private).

Billing and coding duties

You now know medical billing and coding is a growing field, but you want more than just a paycheck; you want to be sure it’s the right fit — the career that will open the door to your future. Before you make any decisions, you need to get the basics on medical billing and coding.

Billing, coding or both?

Though at times they may be separate titles, the roles of billing and coding overlap, and they both share some important characteristics. Both involve accurate record keeping and what could be seen as a form of translating. Think of it this way: You’re reading notes of medical procedures, surgeries, and medications then translating them into codes for accurate documentation, or you’re reading codes and translating them into bills.

Medical billing and coding is an important aspect of the medical care process. It helps ensure that patients are protected from paying for care they didn’t receive and that medical facilities receive the payments for services provided. Accuracy is paramount, and though you may not be hands-on with a patient or face-to-face with a doctor, a medical biller and coder is an important part of successful medical care.

Medical biller common duties:

  • Processes and follows up on insurance claims
  • Ensures invoices are paid properly
  • Assembles data for a bill (charge entry, claims transmission, payment posting, insurance follow-up and patient follow-up)
  • Understands and may use common medical coding languages**

 Medical coder common duties:

  • Reviews clinical statements
  • Assigns standard codes using various classification systems
  • Confers with colleges to determine the best code for “grey” areas

**Common duties via ww.aapc.com What Does a Medical Coder Do? and What is Medical Billing

Skills that pay the bills

Every career requires a variety of skills, and medical billing and coding is no different. Take a moment to evaluate which skills come into play in health information tech careers like billing and coding.

Analytical skills

As a biller and coder you’ll need the ability to understand and analyze medical records and diagnoses and then decide which codes most accurately reflect the services performed. This is an important skill that will often directly impact a facility’s compensation and a patient’s payments.

Detail oriented

You won’t find a medical biller or coder that tells you it’s about the “big picture.” In this career, it’s all in the details.

Interpersonal skills

As a biller and coder, you’ll be interacting quite a bit with other medical professionals, financial personnel and other billers and coders. Even if only on the phone or through email, the ability to communicate clearly, listen, and relate to others are all skills you’ll use every day.

Technical skills

In today’s technology infused world, you’re probably well aware that being comfortable with technology is important to success. In a medical billing and coding career you will most likely be using electronic health record software on a day-to-day basis.*

*Numerical data, common duties & skills via Bureau of Labor Statistics page Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.

How to become a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

Now that you’ve educated yourself on the medical billing and coding career, you should understand the steps involved to get there.

Find a great program

A great place to start your medical billing and coding journey is to find a program that strives to give you a solid education. According to the BLS, programs could include courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health data requirements and standards, classification and coding systems and much more. Additionally, seek out programs that include certification.

Consider certification

Certification is an important step to distinguish yourself as a professional in the billing and coding profession, and according to the BLS most employers prefer to hire specialists who are certified. Consider getting certified by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) in one of several billing or coding certifications such as the Certified Professional Biller™ (CPB) or Certified Professional Coder™ (CPC) or pursue a program that ends with certification.

Steps to establishing a career in Medical Billing and Coding

Now that you know more about the field of medical billing and coding, what’s stopping you from taking the next step? Take a look at our Medical Billing and Coding (MBC) program and learn more today!

For more information about graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit https://www.altierus.org/disclosures.

Kevin Arnold, Medical Billing and Coding Instructor

Kevin Arnold has a wealth of knowledge to share in medical billing and coding, as well as health insurance as a full-time medical billing and coding instructor at Altierus. He finds the blended format of the MBC program works well for his students. They can listen to lectures on their own time at home and then come to class ready to put what they learned into action by working through coding scenarios and operative reports. Kevin lives for the ‘ah ha’ moment in a student’s eyes when everything they’ve been studying connects. Seeing their confidence shine from within is what makes his work in the classroom worth all the effort.

Train for a career in Medical Billing and Coding

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