Training to become a medical billing and coding specialist is relatively quick and basic, as medical billers and coders are one of the few healthcare specialists who do not work directly with patients.
Medical billing and coding training programs, offered by career schools and junior colleges, are designed to prepare students to fulfill the basic job duties of medical billing and coding specialists by teaching the job skills and background knowledge needed to perform in this high-demand profession.
The array of courses learned by medical billing and coding students is relatively diverse within the realm of healthcare, since these professionals work with many types of healthcare specialist. Thus, the medical knowledge coders and billers draw upon is broad. However, medical billing and coding training does not usually cover the hands-on procedures used by doctors and nurses. Instead, these training programs cover three primary areas:
- Medical Fundamentals and Background Knowledge
- Medical Terminology
- Medical Coding and Medical Billing Practices
Medical fundamentals may include topics such as biology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and other life sciences that apply directly to healthcare. These courses give medical billers and coders the expertise to interpret physician procedures, conditions and reimbursement needs.
Medical terminology is the lexicon of words, suffixes and prefixes that describe the practices of medicine. It is a necessity for all healthcare professionals, and is used heavily by medical billing and coding specialists in their daily work, both in coding and in person-to-person conversations.
Medical billing and coding practices include the specific coding systems used by these professionals, and the specifics of working with insurance providers and other third-party payers. There are over 600 medical codes that describe various medical treatments and conditions, as well as many rules and regulations that apply to health insurance claims. Since medical billing and coding may or may not be split between separate individuals, most programs cover both coding and billing practices, though actual positions may focus more on one or the other.
Medical billing and coding training programs can be found at vocational schools and community colleges nationwide, or through online training programs. Classes are often lecture based, and some programs provide computer-based hands-on tasks that simulate medical billing and coding work.
The World Wide Web offers an array of training options which provide flexibility in scheduling. Using medical coding books for self-study can also help you prepare for this career, and for certification.
Formal training in medical billing and coding is a major strength to have for becoming competitive in the job market. Since most employers prefer to hire specialists who have had formal training, graduates of medical billing and coding training programs are in a better position to be hired and promoted than those who are self taught.
Pursuing medical billing and coding certification after graduation is also highly recommended, since employers look for medical billing and coding specialists who are certified. Certification demonstrates to employers that a medical billing and coding professional is dedicated to career excellence and continuing education, making them extremely strong assets to a healthcare organization. Certified medical billing and coding specialists are also generally promoted more quickly and earn a higher salary.
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