Online Billing and Coding Degrees
Medical billing and coding programs teach students how to classify and organize claims and work with the multiple insurance and healthcare providers and organizations. Most programs can be completed in two to three years. Highly-rated online programs from across the country in medical billing are listed below.
|AS in Billing & Coding||Herzing University – Herzing University offers those looking to break into the health industry a chance to do so as medical billing and insurance specialist. Herzing's AS in Billing & Coding Program teaches how to decipher "diagnosis-related groups" and to properly document the information for the sake of the doctors, insurance and the patient.|
|AAS in Medical Coding & Billing||Grantham University – Grantham University's AAS in Medical Coding & Billing Program will enable its students to be apart of the medical coding and billing profession upon completion. Graduates learn about the types of healthcare facilities and their purpose, the meaning of medical terms and their respective abbreviation, and the ability to code and properly bill for administrative purposes.|
|Cert in Billing & Coding||Allen School – The certificate program of Billing & Coding at Allen School provides students with opportunity to learn the administrative and medical knowledge to be able to proper bill and code various procedure for financial and legal reason. Upon completion of the program graduates will be prepared for work in hospitals and various care facilities.|
What is Medical Billing and Coding?
Keeping track of patient information, filing insurance claims, and making sure that doctors get paid for the work they do is an entire industry unto itself. Medical billing and coding professionals operate within an intricate system of regulations with its own technical vocabulary and procedures. The primary duty of billing and coding workers is to keep records and use a standardized communication system called the Current Procedural Terminology code to ensure appropriate invoicing between medical practices, patients, and payers such as insurance companies or MediCare.
Requirements for Entering a Medical Billing and Coding Program
Most medical billing and coding programs require students to have a high school diploma or equivalent credential, such as a GED. For homeschooled applicants, ACT or SAT scores, an application essay, or letters of recommendation may be accepted in lieu of a diploma.
Some universities will accept students who are still in high school into a limited number of courses, provided that the student continues high school concurrently.
Requirements may vary depending on the level of credential you wish to pursue. Applying for an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Coding may have more stringent requirements than applying for a certificate of learning in the field.
How Can You Become a Billing and Coding Professional?
While no degree or certificate is required by law to work in the billing and coding field, employers are much more likely to hire someone with some relevant educational background. Certification programs for medical billing and coding can last from one to two years, depending on how many courses you take at once, and which credential you’re trying for. A few steps to follow if you want a career in billing and coding are:
- Find a School: Lots of colleges offer fairly quick, 18-20 credit hour billing and coding programs that will teach you the basics of the Current Procedural Terminology and get you ready to work in a doctor’s office or health clinic’s billing department. Find an accredited program that fits your schedule and budget, and send in an application.
- Get Certified: Several organizations offer certifications and credentials in medical health information management, billing, and coding. The American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders, Board of Medical Specialty Coding, and Professional Association of Health Care Coding Specialists offer certificates in various specialties of health coding. Employers highly prefer to hire certified coders, and having a credential will make it much easier for you to move up in an organization.
- Get Hired: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in the health billing and coding industry will grow 20% between 2008-2018, well over the average job growth in other industries. Once you’ve got your training and certificate, it shouldn’t be hard to find a job in this field in your city of choice.
Daily Duties of a Billing and Coding Professional
Health information technicians, including billing and coding specialists, spend most of the day at a computer, although paper filing systems are still common in hospitals and health clinics, so retrieving physical files from the stacks is also required. Unless you work in an always-open facility, you will likely work a normal, 40 hour week.
According to The BLS, coding specialists “…assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure by using classification systems software. The classification system determines the amount for which healthcare providers will be reimbursed if the patient is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or other insurance programs using the system.” There are different coding systems for different healthcare settings, and coders may specialize in a particular setting. General activities that billing and coding workers do throughout a workday include:
- Entering data into computer programs. Fast typing skills and a good memory and organization skills will help you learn the medical jargon and know how to efficiently take notes and translate them into official medical terminology.
- Retrieving records from both electronic and paper databases for physicians and other health information technicians to review. This element of the job can scale up massively depending on the size of organization you work for. A private family medical practice may have several hundred or a thousand medical records on file, while hospitals or other large organizations may have hundreds of thousands.
- Interacting with both physicians and patients, gathering information from them, and generally keeping everyone on the same page. Although you won’t be directly involved in treating patients, you may need to collect billing or insurance information from them. A combination of efficient computer skills and strong interpersonal skills will serve you well in this industry.
Salary and Job Prospects for Billing and Coding Specialists
General growth across the health industry, combined with increasing dependence on electronic communication and record keeping, makes for great employment opportunities in the billing and coding field. Below are some general facts about the earnings and employment prospects for billing and coding workers.
- The median annual wage of medical records and health information technicians was $30,610 as of May, 2008.
- The Federal Executive Branch of the U.S. government was both the largest and best paying employer of health information technicians, with a median annual wage of $42,760.
- There were 172,500 medical records and health information technician jobs in 2008, a number that is expected to grow 20% by 2018.
As the volume of electronic medical data grows, and the management of it gets more complex, new positions will be created for billing and coding specialists and other health information technicians with strong computer skills and knowledge of data management software.
Online and Offline Options: Which is Better for Billing and Coding Education?
Given the highly computer driven nature of billing and coding careers, pursuing education online is a great option for launching a career in this field. You will gain more familiarity with computers, as well as practice using specialized coding and billing software that you’ll have to use on the job, in an online certificate program.
One of the biggest drawbacks of online education is the lack of face to face interaction with students and professors. This depersonalization can be difficult for some students to cope with, and if the accountability of regular in-person meetings is necessary for you to stay on top of school assignments, then you should consider on campus options. However, for most students, the scheduling freedom offered by online courses is well worth the trade off.
Cost of Medical Billing and Coding Degrees and Certificates
Billing and coding degree certificate programs are typically under 30 credit hours, whereas associate’s degrees and above can easily reach 60 credit hours or more. The overall cost of your program depends largely on the school and program you choose.
The bulk of your bill will go towards tuition, which can be from $200-$1000 per credit hour, depending on your school and whether you attend part-time or full-time. Other costs that apply whether you attend online or campus courses are food, housing, textbooks, and class materials. Transportation is a fairly flexible cost if you take classes online, but if you have to go to a campus for class each day, your fuel bills can really add up. Some colleges offer a “net-price calculator” to help you estimate your total expenses while attending the school.
What Industry Trade Associations Exist for Billing and Coding Professionals?
There are several professional organizations of health information technicians, billing and coding specialists, and cancer/tumor registrars which offer credentials and other industry related resources. The following is a list of organizations providing information and services for health information workers:
- Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) is an independent accrediting body for health information management education programs.
- Board of Medical Specialty Codingoffers both training and testing for coding professionals, and hosts networking events for those seeking employment in the field.
- The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists is another credentialing body with a wealth of online resources, including webinars, for specialists in a variety of medical billing and coding niches.
Getting Started on your Medical Billing and Coding Career
Contacting any of the above organizations can help you get excited and gain some momentum toward your goal of becoming a medical billing and coding professional. Once you have the motivation, look into some of the schools listed on this site, which offer the top accredited online billing and health information management certificates and degrees.