Change is inevitable. The economy shifts, seemingly overnight, and as a result the needs of certain businesses may fluctuate. If you are worried about the future of your current career path, it may be time to look for something more apt to stand the test of time. A career in the medical field doesn't have to mean being hands-on with patients. You could take a job working behind the scenes in medical coding a billing an exciting, demanding and essential position. In this article, we explain the career field of medical coding and review contenders for the top four-week online course for medical coding and billing.
What Is Medical Coding and Billing?
The medical field relies heavily on shorthand to make it easier for doctors, nurses and other related medical personnel to make notes on patients' charts. These notes alert people in the billing department how and what to bill for. Specially trained billing clerks will then decipher the notes and look for things like patient history, diagnosis and treatment. These clerks will then use a complex coding system to associate each step of a patient's medical care into a series of numbers. These billing systems ensure that the correct medical procedures are being charged to the patient. Insurance companies rely solely on these codes to pay for a patient's related coverage. If a procedure is miscoded, it is billed improperly and, therefore, not paid properly. This mishandling may lead to a dispute between the medical facility and the insurance company down the line with the patient caught in the middle. Thus, having a competent and trained person working as a medical coder benefits the hospital, the insurance company and the patient.
What Is Required to Work in Medical Coding and Billing?
While some facilities and care providers may have varying requirements, there are some basic specifications that everyone interested in this field should possess:
Most billers and coders begin with an associate's degree. While it is beneficial if this degree is in a health information, health science or related field, these specific areas of study are not required. Having an associate degree of any kind typically signals that a person is dedicated enough to continue an educational track successfully. There are now associate degrees being offered in medical billing and coding. That programs are focused on this career path indicates how critical these positions are.
All candidates for a coding and billing position must have specialized coding and billing training. If this is not achieved through an associate's degree program, it must be accomplished through other means. Fortunately, coding and billing courses are becoming more readily available at many educational locations, and perhaps even more importantly, through online resources. The typical length of training is one year.
Regardless of the way you are trained, you will need a certification that informs employers that you have completed the required coursework. There are online programs that vary in length to help you achieve this certification. Some only concentrate on one aspect or the other, and you must be diligent in what program you ultimately choose. There are scams that claim to offer you the training required, but in reality, the certificate they produce is not accepted by most medical facilities or providers. It is a good idea to vet any online program you are considering. There are also nationally recognized exams that you can take to gain a leg up on other candidates.
Why Is an Online Training Program Beneficial?
If you are looking to change careers or you just want to gain more marketable skills, you may not have the time or the means to attend college classes. You may already be running in different directions with work and family obligations. Online classes are a convenient and cost-effective way to attain new skills and the training necessary to improve your professional and financial situation.
What Online Training Programs Are Available for Medical Coding and Billing?
There are a few online programs available for those seeking to enter the medical coding and billing field. Many of these programs claim they are 100 percent online and designed for working professionals. There are many positive aspects to this kind of course, the best being the flexibility of the course load and work. In classes like this, there are usually longer deadlines to complete lectures and classwork. These protracted deadlines are more conducive for busy working professionals who may only have a couple hours here and there a week to spare. Using those spare hours for course work is worthwhile if it means improving the likelihood that you will enter a workforce that is expanding, instead of contracting like so many other professions these days.
What Is the Typical Online Program Like?
You are likely aware of the increase in popularity of online educational offerings. Even school-aged children are being required to do some measure of coursework online. The world has shifted to allow more opportunities online, and the education system is also adapting to online learning environments. In this section, we describe what a typical online program is like.
To obtain an associate's degree, you are required to complete 60 credit hours of classes that will go towards fulfilling core requirement, such as math, science, language arts and social studies. There are also classes that go toward your major. The split is typically 34 hours of core courses and 26 hours of related professional development. If you decide to take the associate's degree route to becoming a coding and billing specialist, you will be taking 24 credit hours that give you the skills required for medical billing and coding.
An associate's degree takes an average of two years to complete. This is assuming you are taking 15 to 20 credit hours in the fall and the same in the spring semesters. It is possible to graduate with an associate's degree in less time. However, doing so and maintaining a full-time job may be more difficult.
If you have already received an associate's or bachelor's degree in another field and medical coding and billing is a career change, you may be eligible to take an online certification class. These classes vary in length. Is it possible to find a four-week online course for medical coding and billing? We were able to find a four-month program through Ashworth College, but it seems to be the exception and not the standard.
What Are Some Top Online Medical Coding and Billing Programs?
Below are some suggested online programs that will enable you to ultimately achieve your certification as a medical coder and biller. While this list is not a comprehensive offering, it does provide some options to explore and consider.
Drexel University Online
If you are looking to receive your certification in medical coding and billing, one of the highest ranked and top performing programs is offered by Drexel University. It features six courses that are career-focused and will give you the certificate required within a year. Halfway through completion, candidates are eligible to sit for the national certification exam. This enables candidates to have the credentials required for a job upon completion of the program. It is one of the shortest and most thorough programs offered and its graduates are widely accepted throughout the industry.
Keiser University Online
An associate's degree in medical administrative billing and coding is one route you can take to get the foundation necessary on which to build your career. Keiser University offers the requisite classes to obtain your degree online. The timeline for obtaining your degree is almost completely up to you, but as stated above, an associate's degree of any sort requires a minimum number of completed credit hours. Once you graduate from the program, you will have the tools to prepare for the American Academy of Professional Coders credential exam. Upon passing the AAPC, you will earn an apprentice designation. The title itself opens doors to medical practices and insurance billing departments.
Ashworth College Online
One of the few accredited colleges to offer a four-month online coding and billing program is Ashworth College. It claims to get you prepared for your accreditation exam with the requisite classes and skill building in as little as four months. Their partner, the National Healthcareer Association, will administer the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist exam upon successful completion of the requisite courses. If you are able to devote more time to classes, this accelerated four-month program might be right for you.
It is critical that you check into each program to find what prerequisites are required before enrolling. You do not want to spend time and money on a program that you are not eligible to take for one reason or another.
In an ever-changing career climate, having a job that is able to withstand the highs and lows of a changing economy is critical for you and your family. A career in medical coding and billing is one that will always be in demand. People will always need medical care and that medical care must be paid for somehow. While you may not be able to get certified in four weeks, with proper planning you can be a professional medical coder and biller in under a year. Set yourself up for success by finding and enrolling in the best program for your situation.