Monthly Archives: July 2014

What is a Medical Coding Certificate?

DocumentThe healthcare industry offers a number of exciting and rewarding careers based upon delivering exceptional care to patient populations. As medicine and technology mingle to advance, the ever changing process medical coding – that is the practice of recording, processing, and reviewing medical data – is a growing field with a huge demand for qualified professionals.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current job outlook for medical records and health information technicians is 22 percent, which is much faster than average. A Medical Coding Certificate is a credential that validates the expertise of a trained and qualified medical coder. After earning their certification, these individuals can go on to work in the billing office inside of a medical practice such as a hospital, physician’s office, outpatient center, or clinic. Medical coders are also the healthcare professionals who handle medical claims so that physicians and hospitals can be reimbursed for insurance payments. As you can see, medical coders are integral members of healthcare teams who require specific and continuing education to remain relevant within a dynamic industry.

What Skills are required for Medical Coding?

Anyone interested in a career in medical coding should be able to work with numbers really well and have excellent attention to detail. It is also important to have training in various types of administrative skills including submitting medical claims. Sometimes a medical coder will have to obtain additional information in order to file a claim successfully. Having solid interpersonal skills can help them communicate with physicians or other medical professionals, as well as representatives from insurance companies when they need to gather facts on a particular claim.

Certifications and other Educational Requirements for Medical Coders

Medical coders must have a high school diploma and a certificate from an accredited program. The American Academy of Professional Coders, or AAPC, offers certification courses where students can obtain their Certified Professional Coder certification as well as other related credentials. Students may attend classes in a traditional classroom setting or find accredited programs that are available online. These courses typically cost anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000. The AAPC recommends that all medical coders complete an anatomy course and a medical terminology course before they earn their certification.

Why choose to be a Medical Coder?

The job outlook alone is enough to convince many people who want to start a career in the health care industry to go the Medical Coding route. Finding a job this secure is difficult these days and the certification process doesn’t take a long time to complete. The median pay for a coder is around $16.42 per hour which comes to $34,160 per year. Even though technology has made it possible for software to do a large amount of a coder’s job, there is still a demand for a qualified technician to enter the data and follow up any issues with health care providers or the insurance companies. Most medical coders get to enjoy a typical 40-hour work week with weekends and most holidays off. A career in medical coding can also lead to even better, higher paying job opportunities such as medical office management or office operations.

A Medical Coding Certificate can open up many new doors for individuals interested in a secure job in the health care industry. This role allows certified coders to help all types of patients get their health care services paid for while also aiding insurance companies in tracking the money they reimburse to physicians. Their work can prevent fraudulent medical claims from occurring which in turn, allows insurance companies to keep their rates low and affordable.

Which Organizations Offer Accreditation for Medical Coding Programs?

accreditedMedical billing and coding carries tremendous responsibility upon which patient care, their course of treatment and related payments amounting to tens of thousands of dollars all depend. The precision required and the medical knowledge necessary to properly identify myriad health conditions and procedures means regularly scheduled training must occur in order to keep up with changes and advances in the health care industry. Therefore, proper certification can only come as a result of training through accredited schools to ensure certain standards are maintained.

Accreditation Organizations

There are two nationally recognized accreditation organizations that provide for allowing schools to certify students as medical coders. They are the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIM). Schools you are interested in should list either one or both of these organizations, which can be cross-referenced to be sure. In addition, there are six regional agencies granting institutional accreditation, which are:

– Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
– New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
– North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NASC)
– Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NASC)
– Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
– Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

Traditional universities and colleges receive regional accreditation. This is what makes it possible to transfer credits, the primary reason you want to find a properly accredited school. You don’t want to put in the time, effort and money only to find the school you have used is not able to transfer your credits when attempting to get certified or choosing other schools to further advance in your health care career.

Accredited Schools Offering Medical Coders Programs and Certification

What follows is a listing of some of the schools that offer quality, accredited programs:

AAPC

The AAPC’s Online Medical Coding Courses are conveniently divided into modules including quizzes at the end of each segment so you can assess your progress. As a progressive course with the goal of sitting for exams, this is a very effective approach. In addition to reading, there are critical-thinking exercises and audio lectures. In addition to other learning materials, there is a team of certified coaches to help with the courses. Online courses allow you to study at your own pace anywhere you are comfortable and have Internet access. With AAPC, you are taking courses directly from the source.

Everest College

The Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Program at Everest College is a nine-month course that offers training in medical insurance, claims processing and collection strategies, current procedural coding and diagnostic coding. The program includes simulated practice in preparing both manual and electronic insurance claims as well as practice at patient interviewing for documenting the information necessary to complete and manage claims.

Penn Foster Career School

The Penn Foster Career School has been regionally accredited by the MSA as well as nationally by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which makes it possible to take the training course online. Their Medical Billing and Coding Classes Online may be completed as soon as seven months. In this course, students learn how to manage records and file insurance claims, how to prepare insurance forms, how to bill the doctors’ offices and clinics as well as private billing services. Students also complete real-world coding examples. This program includes preparing for the AHIMA certification exam in addition to providing for free membership in the AAPC.

Kaplan University

Regionally accredited by the NCA, Kaplan University offers their Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Program providing for the knowledge and technical skills to become certified as a Medical Coder. This program highlights coursework that includes anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, data information processing, medical coding and billing, medical terminology, insurance billing and medical office management. Additional hours include practical medical billing and coding experience and administrative functions within the classroom lab setting. Prepare to sit for either the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) exam or the Certified Coding Specialist physician-Based (CCS-P) exam.

Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA)

The Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) offers accredited medical billing and coding diploma and degree programs either online or on campus in Tampa, Florida. The industry-relevant topics cover accurate coding of medical and surgical procedures, how to effectively process insurance claims, coding procedures, medical records, and applying ICD-9 diagnosis. Courses include Healthcare Settings, Healthcare Claim Cycle, Claims Processing, Medical Basics and Medical Practice Management Systems. These classes can be completed in 10 months. An associate of science in medical billing and coding, which can be completed in as few as 18 months, includes general education courses, such as English Composition, College Math, Sociology, General Biology and Critical Thinking and Problem Solving as well as a variety of electives.

These are but a few of the schools out there that offer excellent programs to become a certified medical coder or billing and coding. A well-established school provides well-versed professors and instructors. Take the time to engage with the schools to find out what their graduation rate is. With so many to choose from, there is no reason to settle for less. Choosing an accredited school gives you the advantage of the elevated standards of medical coding as well as the expanded choices of coding audits, physician practice management and regulatory compliance.

Be aware that with such high demand in the field, there are countless programs to evaluate and compare costs, features and benefits. Be careful to verify accreditation status. Do your research; find out what graduates are saying. Reflecting your accreditation on your resume demonstrates the desire to serve the public interest with a commitment to getting the job done that is only going to continue to increase in demand through 2020.

What Different Medical Coding Training Programs Are Available?

tranMedical coding professionals are an integral piece of the health care system. As more and more reliance is placed on the use of technology and digital records in health care, and as the demand for health care continues to rise, the medical coding career will also continue to grow in demand.

Medical Coding Overview

Using knowledge in medical terminology and business operations, medical coders document patient records using identified procedures and diagnoses. After reading through and extracting the information in order to assign a code, the medical coder enters the code into the computer.

In some cases, the medical coding professional will concentrate on one specific area of medicine, such as pediatrics, oncology, obstetrics, or cardiology. This is likely to occur in a large hospital or physician’s group office setting. Many coders will be required to have general knowledge of all areas of coding in order to handle any possible diagnosis or procedure.

Medical coders might work in large, urban hospitals, rural outpatient treatment centers, or suburban physician’s offices. Sometimes, the type of workplace is important when determining which education to pursue.

Certificate Programs in Medical Coding

Many certificate programs in medical coding can be found throughout the United States. The majority of these programs are offered through community colleges, and most of these programs enable a student to utilize credits earned during completion to be transferred to other universities for furthering an education.

The certificate is often the first step a future medical coder decides to take when beginning to complete the education requirements for medical coding. Some of the courses certificate students complete include physician-based medical coding, hospital-based medical coding, medical terminology, chart auditing, medical coding and billing software, and case studies in medical coding.

Associate Degree Programs in Medical Coding

While a certificate program requires completion of only 16 to 18 credits on average, the associate’s degree also include courses in general education. Many associate degree programs in medical coding can be divided into two categories for future professionals to begin specializing in one area. For example, some institutions include both a physician’s track and a hospital track.

Typical course in either of these tracks are similar, with students completing elective courses in one area or the other. Common course work for both concentrations includes coding anatomy and physiology. coding compliance, ethics in coding, diagnostic coding, procedural coding, and evaluation and management.

Professional Certifications

In addition to certificate programs offered through colleges and vocational programs, there are also a number of certificates for medical coders to obtain in order to both enter into the field after graduation or for exemplifying skill and knowledge in order to advance within the field.

For many organizations an companies, the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) designation is required in order to work as a coding specialist and to advance into leadership roles and management. Additionally, the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and the Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based designation (CC-P) are designations that improve opportunities and employment consideration.

Additional Education for Advancement

Medical coding professionals might also choose to move on and advance within the field. Entry level positions in medical coding are often helpful for gaining skills for future careers in health care administration, health information management, and medical office management. After earning a certificate or associate’s degree in medical coding, professionals often have a number of the skills needed to continue on to complete a bachelor’s degree in one of these areas of the industry.

Course work in these programs includes similar classes to the certificate and associate’s degree programs in medical coding. In addition, students in these programs will complete courses such as medical law and ethics, principles of managed care, medical record management, medical information technology, and health services administration.

The completion of a training program in medical coding, whether at the certificate or associate’s degree level, prepares graduates for work in an in-demand, fast-paced, interesting and rewarding career field. With the choice to continue a career in medical coding or advance a certificate or associate’s degree with further education, medical coding professionals have a number of options and opportunities.

Are there Medical Coding Careers that Allow Me to Travel the World?

trDo you dream of traveling the world but love the stability of a steady paycheck? Do you have great attention to detail and want to be part of a growing industry? A career in medical coding can provide all of that. Here are some great options if your wanderlust and inner-homebody both want a satisfying career.

The medical coding industry is expected to grow almost 20 percent in the next decade. The new Affordable Care Act shifted the responsibility for higher deductibles to the public, creating a need for doctors to increase pinched cash flow. Great coders offset that need by ensuring all records are coded correctly which allows for claims to be paid faster. The need for medical coders is also on the rise because of the new ICD-10 coding system, set to go into effect in 2015. This system increases the number of coding options by the thousands. Needless to say, those in the industry have a steep learning curve. But the upside is this creates more job growth and opportunity in this industry than before.

How to Get Started Traveling the U.S.

Medical coders who travel are known as ‘travel coders’ or ‘remote coders.’ Most have multiple certifications and extensive education in the field. Many have also worked in the industry for a few years, too.

But you can start without any experience or education, in some cases. Here’s how it works: There are companies nationally that both train and pay for medical coders to travel. Companies that hire travel coders include: sourcemed.netonassignment and Altegra Health services, to name a few well known recruiting services.

How it Works

Hospitals, health firms and departments need either additional coders or outsource their coding entirely. Travel coders arrive at the location and work to either overhaul a big project, working in tandem with the company coders, like on audits, or will work to help an organization ‘catch-up’ on its claim records.

The job includes travel on assignment for different hospital and health departments around the U.S., for at least one month. Once you’re vetted, and this can take anywhere from one to three weeks, some hospitals will pay for you to fly home on weekends.

Sound good? Medical coders can have anywhere from four to ten assignments in one year. They get to see the U.S., traveling from state to state, where needed. It gets better: Some companies will pick up both your travel fare to fly home weekly and your housing expense, depending on their budget or strong need in the area. Not bad.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Some medical coders relish the idea of working internationally. There are ways to have a career that allows you travel. Simply, it’s telecommuting medical coding.

Telecommuting coders are also known as ‘remote medical coders’. They work off site from businesses, and they can work from anywhere in the world.

What to look for? Find companies that have moved entirely to EHR (electronic health records) systems. These are places that can work with you remotely, since all records are digital. These are also companies who are more likely to hire someone remotely, cutting down on their travel or housing expense cost in hiring you as a remote coder, rather than travel coder. Also, these are companies that either have staff and need the extra support, or are small firms, needing coding support without the cost output of hiring a full-time employee.

Coders who telecommute can and do work anywhere in the world, though they must have both access to internet, video chat and phone, to be in touch with their company. Some work part of the year as travel coders in the U.S. and the rest of the year in telecommuting jobs, traveling the world while working.

How Do You Get in the Door?

If you want to telecommute and travel the world, start with recruitment groups who specialize in placing medical coders and inquire whether they know any companies looking for a telecommuting coder.

Try Linked in Groups and reach out to recruiters there. Also, become a member of AAPC, the biggest medical coding certification organization.

Be aware that most telecommuting coders have worked in the industry for a few years, and already have the basic knowledge of an organization’s flow as well as multiple certifications in the industry.

If you want to find a stable job and travel, medical coding as a travel coder or remote coder is a great option. Not only will you have peace of mind, earning a stable paycheck, but you’ll be able to see the world while doing so.