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Online Degrees in Medical Billing and Coding


Article Sources
  • 16 Great Reasons to Start a Medical Billing and Coding Career, American Institute of Medical Sciences & Education, June 2018, https://www.aimseducation.edu/blog/why-start-medical-billing-and-coding-career/
  • Associate of Applied Science in Medical Insurance, Billing, and Coding, Stratford University, https://www.stratford.edu/health-sciences/associate-medical-insurance-billing-and-coding, accessed October 2018
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management, Ashford University,https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/health-care/bachelor-of-science-heath-information-management, accessed October 2018
  • Bazzoli, F., 15 top healthcare information technology trends for 2018, Health Data Management, January 2018, https://www.healthdatamanagement.com/list/the-rising-adoption-of-artificial-intelligence-will-enhance-physician-decisionmaking
  • BS in Health Information Management, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-health-information-management, accessed October 2018
  • Career: Medical Billers and Coders, BigFuture, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/health-technology-medical-billers-coders, accessed October 2018
  • Health Information Management Degree (HIM), Herzing University, https://www.herzing.edu/healthcare/health-information-management-degree, accessed October 2018
  • Master of Health Information Management Degree, Purdue Global University, https://www.purdueglobal.edu/degree-programs/health-sciences/master-health-information-management/, accessed October 2018
  • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate - Online Program, The College of Healthcare Professionals, https://www.chcp.edu/degrees-certificates/online-program/medical-billing-and-coding-classes, accessed October 2018
  • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Program, Purdue Global University, https://www.purdueglobal.edu/degree-programs/health-sciences/medical-billing-coding-certificate/, accessed October 2018
  • Medical Billing and Coding Online, Carrington College, https://carrington.edu/online-degrees/medical-billing-and-coding/#program-length, accessed October 2018
  • Medical Coding and Billing (Associate of Applied Science), Grantham University, https://www.grantham.edu/online-degrees/medical-coding-and-billing/?tab-overview, accessed October 2018
  • Medical Insurance, Billing, and Coding, Berkley College, https://berkeleycollege.edu/academics_bc/medical-insurance-billing-and-coding.htm, accessed October 2018
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm, accessed October 2018
  • MS in Health Information Management, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/masters/ms-in-health-information-management, accessed October 2018
  • What Does a Medical Coder Do?, American Academy of Professional Coders,https://www.aapc.com/medical-coding/what-does-a-medical-coder-do.aspx, accessed October 2018
  • What is Medical Coding?, American Academy of Professional Coders, https://www.aapc.com/medical-coding/medical-coding.aspx, accessed October 2018
  • What is ICD-10?, AAPC,https://www.aapc.com/icd-10/icd-10.aspx, accessed November 2018
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Medical billing and coding are specialized occupations that are essential in modern-day healthcare practices. Medical coding professionals make sure that correct codes for medications, tests and procedures are applied to patients' records and bills so that insurance companies can process them accurately and quickly. According to the professional organization, AAPC, more than 141,000 different codes are used for diagnoses and procedures. This behind-the-scenes occupation can be a vital part of a patient's care process as the documents coding professionals prepare may be used in reference to further treatment.

According to the College Board, medical billers and coders need to be detail-oriented, organized and discreet as the data they deal with needs high levels of accuracy and can be extremely confidential. Both coders and billers must have excellent computer and software skills as patient history is transcribed onto software designed specifically for this purpose.

Careers in health information management can be a good choice for individuals who want to enter the growing healthcare industry, but would prefer not to be involved in direct patient care. Working professionals, high school graduates and career changers may want to consider earning an online degree in medical billing and coding as a way to start in the industry or as a way to prepare for a more advanced degree that can lead to a higher-level (and higher-paying) career in the field of health information management. Online degree programs can give you the advantage of can be completed at your own pace allowing you to balance a job, family commitments and study.

Healthcare organizations are increasingly adopting various forms of cloud computing to improve data management, increase access to health information and reduce IT expenses.

According to the American Academy of Professional Coders, medical billing is a subset of medical coding, and many health information professionals perform both coding and billing tasks. Typical duties include:

  • Reviewing patient data, checking it for accuracy, organizing and updating it as necessary
  • Using classification software to assign clinical codes for insurance claims and data analysis
  • Maintaining patient record confidentiality
  • Coordinating with physicians and patients to ensure records are updated with every visit

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of medical coders and is expected to grow as the aging population is likely to require more medical services. Additionally, the use of electronic health records to maintain patient data is expected to grow. The following table lists the occupations related to this field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2016 to 2026 using data from the BLS.

What degree do you need for medical billing and coding?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most technicians, including medical billers and coders, have at least a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree.

Those who aspire for supervisory roles in this field can consider earning a bachelor's or master's degree in health information management, according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The following sections describe the various degree levels along with what classes are required for medical billing and coding and health information management.

Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals

Employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?

Online medical billing and coding certificate programs can act as an introduction to the field and students can expect to gain the basic skills needed to understand coding and medical terminology.

Typical duration: Up to one year of part-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Topics cover a range of subjects from software applications to anatomy. Courses you may take are:

  • Medical terminology
  • Healthcare law and ethics
  • Healthcare delivery systems and organization
  • Reimbursement methodologies

Field experiences may be part of your certificate program allowing students to gain real-life application of what has been taught.

What can I do after earning a certificate?

You may be eligible for entry-level jobs in settings like hospitals, physicians' offices and more. Potential occupations include:

  • Medical records and health information technician
  • Medical secretary

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

These programs can help students develop the information literacy and communication skills they need to manage large amounts of data and coordinate between various hospitals, healthcare and insurance agencies.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Apart from general education core classes, some classes you may take are:

  • Basic diagnosis coding systems
  • Basic pharmacology and pathophysiology
  • Medical finance and insurance
  • Medical reimbursement systems

You may have to complete an externship or a practicum as a part of your degree program.

What can I do after earning an associate degree?

While you may be able to get an entry-level job with a certificate in medical billing and coding, the BLS states that most employers are looking for candidates with at least an associate degree. Entry-level positions you may be eligible for are:

  • Medical records and health information technician
  • Coder
  • Health information clerk
  • Medical records clerk

Those who would like to pursue further studies in this field may consider an online bachelor's or master's degree in health information management (HIM) explained in more detail below.

Widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) by all types of healthcare providers, will likely lead to an increased need for health information technicians.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?

Online bachelor's degree programs in health information management build on skills learned in an associate degree program in healthcare information or medical billing and coding. These programs can equip students to help healthcare facilities provide better care to their patients by ensuring the proper management of health statistics and biomedical research data.

Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Students are likely to learn about the typical workflow in healthcare institutions, and the legal aspects of health information along with advanced topics in health information management. Topics you may find in your program are:

  • Electronic health records
  • Health information governance and strategic planning
  • Healthcare quality management
  • Healthcare management and finance

You may have to complete a capstone project or an internship as a part of your bachelor's degree program.

What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?

A bachelor's degree program may equip you for supervisory roles in the health information management field. You may be able to find employment in hospitals, ambulatory services, nursing facilities, pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare facilities. Occupations that you may qualify for are:

  • Clinical information specialist
  • Healthcare database administrator
  • Public health information analyst
  • Health information manager

What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?

Programs at this level usually incorporate different aspects of health information management, such as organizational development and management, human resources and more.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree

Typical coursework: You can expect to study management topics along with healthcare-related subjects. Courses may include:

  • HIM strategic planning and financial management
  • Data management and data quality
  • Information protection and security
  • Project management of health information systems
  • Human resources for healthcare managers

You may also have to complete a capstone project as a part of your master's program requirements.

What can I do after earning a master's degree?

A master's degree may allow you to hold senior management or even executive positions in the healthcare information management field. Potential occupations are:

  • Medical and health services manager
  • HIM director
  • Privacy officer
  • HIM consultant

Accreditation

As with many healthcare degree programs, attending an accredited program can be extremely important as it can demonstrate that you have received an education that meets or exceeds the quality standards required by the healthcare industry. Attending an accredited program can also be a prerequisite for receiving professional certifications as well as federal financial aid during the course of your studies. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) is the agency that reviews and accredits institutions offering health information management degree programs.

Certifications

Most employers prefer their employees to be certified as that can demonstrate competency in the field. You may be able to find online medical billing and coding certification programs that can help you prepare for the examinations for different certifications.

The most common certification for medical billers and coders is the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Other certifications are:

Certifications typically need to be renewed periodically.

Employment Statistics

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Industries with the highest concentration of employment

Office Administrative Services

Offices of Physicians

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

Outpatient Care Centers

Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals

States with the highest level of employment

California

Texas

Florida

New York

Ohio

Top-paying metropolitan areas

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Newark, NJ-PA Metropolitan Division

Salinas, CA

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL

Trenton, NJ

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

There a number of scholarships and financial aid programs designed to help eligible students pursue a degree in health information management, medical coding and billing. It can be a good idea to also contact your university to see if they have any programs you may be eligible for. Listed below are some scholarship programs to help you get started.

Other resources for aspiring professionals in healthcare information management

Article Sources
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