What is Medical Billing and Coding?

While searching for work at home jobs you probably have seen a lot of advertisements for medical billing and coding jobs.  If you aren’t looking for a work at home job but have been searching for an administrative position at a hospital, clinic, outpatient facility or other location, you’ve probably run across the exact same term.  There seem to be a lot of openings for medical billing and coding.  So what exactly is it, and how do you land a medical billing and coding job?

What Is Medical Billing And CodingMedical billing and coding is often referred to as a single field, but it actually comprises two areas of expertise.  Both medical billers and coders need to know how to interpret medical codes, but that’s where the overlap in their skills and responsibilities ends.  You can look at medical billing and coding as two steps in a process, but in reality medical coding is used for a lot more than just the billing process, and the billing process comprises much more than the transformation of medical codes into charges.  That’s why even though there is a crossover in the work (and sometimes in the people who do the work), most people focus on learning one discipline or the other.

If you’re interested in physiology and anatomy, and if you prefer your interactions to be with your co-workers (and not with the public), you probably would be best suited to medical coding.  What medical coders do is take all kinds of medical conditions, tests, treatments and procedures, and apply numeric and alphanumeric codes to them.  These codes are passed on to the billing department so that charges can be applied, but may also be referenced by physicians and other hospital staff for administrative and medical reasons.

If you aren’t as interested in the medical aspect of business but are more interested in customer interaction, you might like to be in the billing department instead.  As a medical biller you’ll have to learn how to interpret the codes provided by medical coders and convert those codes to charges.  Then you’ll have to charge the appropriate party (the patient, or the patient’s insurance or government provided medical coverage), and follow up once you’ve sent out the bills.  Disputes and confusion are common with medical bills, so you’ll need to be a problem solver so that you can get to the bottom of these misunderstandings and resolve them.  As a biller you’re also have the power to put patients on payment plans or send bills to collections.

You can see why there is a high demand for medical bills and coders—doctors need to be able to communicate clearly, which is why they need coders, and they need to be compensated for their services, which is why they need billers!  Since doctors are busy people and healthcare is always necessary it’s unlikely the system will change much anytime soon; in fact, the demand for medical billers and coders is projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to increase by 20% by 2018, which is a rate nearly twice that of most other professions in America.

You’ll earn a decent salary as a medical biller or coder as well, which makes the job even more attractive.  Medical billers and coders are classified by the BLS as health information technicians.  According to the BLS, in 2008 the median salary for health information technicians (including billers and coders) was $30,610, with the middle 50% of billers and coders earning between $24,290 and $39,490.  Medical billers and coders who worked in government settings tended to have the highest incomes, while those who worked in clinics or outpatient facilities earned the least on average.  As you probably know, medical billing and coding is a popular work at home profession; if you choose to work from your house you could earn between a $10.00-25.00 hourly rate.

Are there things you can do to try and ensure you get a higher salary?  Aside from choosing a workplace where there is a higher average rate of pay, yes, there are certainly things you can do to command a higher salary.  One of the most helpful decisions you can make is to choose a specialization which earns a higher rate of pay.  Just as general practitioners don’t make as much as doctors who specialize in difficult areas of medicine, generalized medical billers and coders don’t usually command the rates of pay that specialized billers and coders do.

The key to getting started in medical billing and coding and getting an excellent salary is education.  You will need to pass an accredited training program in order to get a job as a medical biller or a medical coder.  Before you begin training you will have to make a choice between the two.  After that you can search for an accredited program and sign up.  Accredited programs in medical billing and coding are offered through traditional colleges, online colleges, and trade schools.  They all provide you with the skills you need to excel.  If you find a program which also helps you to get into an internship, then your training may also provide you with the connections you need to get a great job right from the start of your new career.  The hands on training can also help you perform better at your work, which may in itself pave the way toward higher earnings in the future.

Medical billing and coding are fast growing fields, so now is the perfect time to dive in and take advantage of this great opportunity.  Medical billers and coders get to choose where they want to work and in many cases can choose flexible hours as well.  So if you think this is something which interests you, then research more on the topic and check out some of the accredited training programs out there which can prepare people like you to fill the growing demand for health information technicians.  Your new career in medical billing and coding may be closer than you think!

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