Medical Billing – The Ultimate Training Guide
Medical billing is an attractive option for people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re a seasoned health care worker or brand new to the field, there are excellent programs out there to fit your academic and professional needs. Admission to a training program requires a high school diploma or its equivalent.
It’s also recommended that candidates take high school or college-level health, biology, math, and computer courses in preparation for medical billing course work. Successful completion of an accredited medical billing program qualifies you to take a professional certification exam and work in various billing and coding jobs across all health care settings.
College Courses & Non-Degree/Degree Programs
Students don’t have to look far to find many notable medical billing and coding training programs offered at community colleges, career colleges, and technical schools across the country. Most of these institutions award certificate, diploma, and associate degrees in billing and coding or other related subjects like health care reimbursement, health information technology, and data coding and classification.
To ensure you are receiving a high-quality education, stick to accredited schools and programs only. When researching programs, look for ones that have been approved by regional and national accrediting agencies as well as independent accrediting organizations like the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
It’s also important to consider the differences in each non-degree and degree option. Medical billing and coding diploma and certificate programs are primarily career-focused and can be completed in one year or less, while associate degree programs offer a more well-rounded education that takes about two years to finish.
A certificate or diploma program will give you the basic knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce, while an associate degree may provide more comprehensive medical billing and coding training and diverse job opportunities. Determining the right course of study depends on your budget, career goals, and how much time you are willing to dedicate to training.
Either route will include courses in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, coding and classification systems, reimbursement methodology, diagnostic/procedural and CPT coding, pharmacology, and other related subjects. Students will study the role of the medical biller in doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities.
They will also learn about classifying diagnoses and treatments as well as computer billing applications and administration procedures. Many medical billing programs include practicums that are completed toward the last semester to allow students to gain valuable on-the-job experience working with experienced medical billers.
Prospective students can also opt for career training through a professional medical billing and coding organization like the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Unlike the medical billing certificates and degree programs offered at colleges and technical schools, AAPC and AHIMA’s training programs prepare students for specific certification exams. AAPC specializes in certifying medical billers and coders in physicians’ offices, clinics, outpatient facilities, and other health care entities, while AHIMA is mostly geared for certification in hospital settings.
AAPC offers a few entry-level courses and certification credentials for prospective medical billers. The Certified Professional Biller (CPB) course is delivered exclusively online through modules, as well as via textbook, workbook, and audio lectures. Students will be required to purchase specific code books and other resource materials that correspond with the course of study.
Upon completion, students will possess a strong understanding of the health insurance industry, Medicare and third-party billing, and various reimbursement methodologies. This specialized education and training prepares students to take the CPB exam to become a certified medical biller. Other AAPC courses that can be applied to a medical billing and coding certification include anatomy and medical terminology.
AHIMA, on the other hand, has credentialing programs in health information management and coding. Those who are interested in a broader field that includes billing and coding as well as other duties should consider the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. To qualify for this certification exam, applicants must have an associate degree in health information management from an accredited CAHIIM program.
If you’re interested in the coding aspect of the business, you can also choose from the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) credentials. The CCA credential is designed for entry-level professionals who have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and the CCS credential is geared toward those who have completed a coding training program or worked in medical billing and coding jobs.
Online vs. Face-to-Face Courses
Medical billing courses and training programs are offered online and in person through various higher education institutions. Online courses deliver information through audio and video lectures, multimedia presentations, modules, and other formats. Self-paced virtual classes allow prospective medical billers the opportunity to go to school while working and tending to other obligations. Distance learners have to be self-motivated and comfortable teaching themselves using class materials provided by the instructor.
If you prefer a traditional classroom and have more time to dedicate to school, you should consider taking face-to-face courses in medical billing and coding. Campus-based colleges allow students to communicate and interact with instructors, classmates, and faculty on a daily basis. Traditional learning environments are especially helpful for courses like anatomy and physiology that include both lecture and lab components.