The Cutting Edge of Medicine—Medical Billing and Coding
edical Billing and Coding was at one time a career that you could launch by purchasing a book, investing in some computer software, and, once you were confident in your skills, starting a home business with which you provided this valuable service to a group of doctors.
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Billing and coding continues to be a great career opportunity, with pay being considered generous for an entry level job. However, trying to educate yourself through methods that avoid college courses or classes may not be the best method of insuring that you will have a job once you have the knowledge. The two terms "billing" and "coding," actually involve two different jobs which are often performed by the same person. Medical billing involves collecting data for all aspects of a claim, helping to make sure the medical facility is performing efficiently. Coding, on the other hand, is the application of the correct code to every medical procedure used in a particular case. Without correct codes, the insurance companies are unable to make correct, speedy payment. Both jobs require knowledge of medical procedures, anatomy and terminology along with an understanding of how the insurance industry operates.
The medical field has evolved dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years alone. The arrival of the Affordable Care Act has resulted in complex levels of medical coding; the new CD-10 has changed to available codes from just over 13,000 to 144,000. If the wrong code is entered on a bill, the doctor stands to lose thousands of dollars, both in the cost of refiling and in fines and reductions in payment from the insurance company. In fact, it is possible for a physician to lose his practice because of coding errors. As for lost revenue, Ruthann Russo, executive director of HP3 Healthcare Concepts, says that a review of one 200 physician multi-specialty group revealed that an estimated $10 million was simply lost because staff involved had not correctly billed the services.
These changes actually mean that billing and coding is as great a career opportunity as ever; in fact one national survey reports that there are 30% more positions than there are people to fill them, and the shortage is expected to increase. But doctors can no longer afford to take a chance on people who claim to know the business but have no formal training. Doctors are urged to hire personnel with AHIMA or APC certification, who have taken courses with AHIMA approved trainers. You may be expected to take courses in Health Information Management, Pharmacology, and Legal compliance as well as the courses in coding. However, don't feel overwhelmed. Many schools have designed their programs to be completed in as little as four months. Those who complete the course work, a practicum, and pass the test receive certification and are considered billing and coding specialists.
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The pay for a billing/coding specialist varies from state to state but according to the BLS, the mean annual wage for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians overall, is about $38,860.