It's not only doctors and nurses who play a vital role in hospitals and doctor offices. Without health care professionals in medical billing and coding (also referred to as medical records and health information technicians), medical organizations could not function properly. These professionals review, protect and organize patient records, manage databases, and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement.
Those who attend one of the many medical billing and coding schools aspire to join this integral profession, as either a general health information technician or specifically a medical coder or cancer registrar.
Medical billing and coding specializations
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), there are three common paths that professionals in medical billing and coding take:
- Health information technicians: The BLS states that health information technicians "organize and manage health information data by ensuring its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems."
- Medical coders: Medical coders review patient information for preexisting conditions, retrieve patient records and act as liaisons between the medical provider and the billing office.
- Cancer registrars: Cancer registrars compile and analyze cancer patients' information, conduct annual follow-ups, review patient records and pathology reports, and take on the crucial task of ensuring assignment of the proper classification codes for diagnosis and treatment of benign tumors and cancers.
Medical billing and coding certifications and degree programs
If you want to get into the medical billing and coding profession, vocational school, technical school or college is most likely in your future.
According to the BLS, health information technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate in health information technology, though some will have an associate degree. Health information technician programs typically include courses in health care statistics, medical terminology, anatomy, health data standards and requirements, reimbursement protocol, and coding software systems. Successful completion of high school courses in health, math, computer science and biology may help with getting accepted into a program.
Employers may prefer professional certification, which typically requires passing an exam and taking continuing education courses to renew certification. Certifications for medical billers and coders include the following:
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Professional Coder-Outpatient Hospital (CPC-H)
- Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)
- Certified Professional Coder-Payer (CPC-P)
- Certified Professional Biller (CPB)
Additionally, there are over a dozen specialty coding certifications, including family practice (CFPC), obstetrics gynecology (COBCG), pediatrics (CPEDC) and more. The Association for the Advancement of Professional Coders (AAPC.com) is the certifying body for these credentials, and more information can be found on its website.
Medical billing and coding career information
According to the BLS, the national mean annual wage of medical records and health information technicians as of May 2013 was $37,710, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $22,700 and the highest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $57,320.
According to the BLS, employment of medical records and health information technicians in America is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Some of the states with the highest percentage of expected growth for medical records and health information technician jobs between 2012 and 2022, according to Projections Central, are:
- Utah: 32.9 percent growth
- Louisiana: 28.8 percent growth
- Arizona: 28.2 percent growth
- Georgia: 27.1 percent growth
- Colorado: 27 percent growth
Medical billing and coding is a growing, sustainable field which is integral to medical institutions. If you're interested in joining this career field, earning a certificate or associate in medical billing and coding and/or health information technology may be an important step.
- Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, 2012-2022, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
- Medical Coding Certification, AAPC, Accessed September 25, 2014, https://www.aapc.com/certification/medical-coding-certification.aspx
- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-1
- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/CURRENT/oes292071.htm