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Online Medical Billing and Coding Degrees: Program Options
Get info about online programs in medical billing and coding. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.
Certificate programs in medical billing and coding are commonly found online. These programs take about 6-18 months to complete, with full-time study taking the shorter amount of time. Students access courses, study materials and exams entirely through the school’s website. Some programs don’t have in-person requirements, while others may include in-person practicums at a medical facility.
Courses in a medical billing and coding program teach students to maintain health records in a physician’s office, clinic or hospital. Students learn to utilize insurance company codes for various diagnoses and treatments. They also take courses in how to bill insurance companies. Most programs require that students have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Knowledge of medical terminology is recommended, but not required. Previous professional medical experience or coursework in human biology, medical terminology, human anatomy may be required.
Medical billing and coding specialists do not have to meet any licensing requirements, but many employers prefer to hire someone who holds credentials through a professional organization. This usually requires graduating from an accredited training program and passing a competency examination.
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Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
A medical billing and coding specialist interprets medical records and codes their contents for insurance and billing purposes. Most students begin their medical billing and coding education by completing a certificate program, which can be taken online. Participants learn how to create and maintain medical records, code diagnoses and procedures, and bill insurance companies.
Some online medical billing and coding certificate programs have prerequisites, such as proven skills in English, math and computer literacy. Applicants who don’t have a medical background may have to complete courses in medical terminology, human anatomy or human biology.
Learning Formats and Computer Requirements
Students might be required to complete practicums in person at school-approved medical facilities. Both self-paced and traditional programs exist online. However, the way program is structured, participants typically access educational materials through course management software on a school’s website.
To use course management software, it’s recommended that a certificate candidate have an up-to-date computer, access to the Internet and a Web browser. E-mail and word processing software are also typically required. In addition, it may be necessary to download plug-ins, such as Java or Acrobat Reader, to watch lectures or read documents.
Typical Medical Billing and Coding Coursework
Besides courses for medical billing and coding, online programs might include office administration subjects, such as filing, scheduling and communication. Programs may also cover subjects like pharmacology, ethics and human relations.
Standards for Medical Billing
This course covers the health insurance policies provided by insurance carriers and Medicare. Students learn about billing forms, fraud and abuse, reimbursement, payment systems and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Procedural Coding Fundamentals
Students learn the standardized Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) used by medical coding specialists in the United States. Students practice coding using sample medical records and post-operative reports. Some of the coding categories covered in this course are those used for anesthesia, evaluation and management, radiology and surgery.
Beginning Diagnostic Coding
Medical coders need to be familiar with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, known as ICD. This course covers ICD-9-CM and ICD-10. Students work on coding exercises based on actual medical situations.
Maintaining Medical Records
This class provides a thorough overview of forms and records processing for physicians’ offices, hospitals and dental offices. Students are introduced to both paper and electronic records organization. This course also covers the methods used to prevent medical identity theft.
Graduates with a medical billing and coding certificate can pursue entry-level employment with medical group practices, managed care companies, physicians’ offices, dental offices, insurance companies and hospitals. Some common job titles are medical billers, inpatient or outpatient medical coders, patient account representatives and administrative medical specialists.
For medical billing and coding specialists, PayScale.com reported a median salary of $35,498 in October 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a rapid job growth rate of 15% from 2014-2024 for medical records and health information technicians (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Graduates interested in further academic education can look into associate’s degree programs for medical office administration. These programs are available online.
Graduates are eligible to take exams for national certification. However, medical billing and coding certification isn’t a state or federal requirement. A variety of national certification exams exist, administered by organizations like the American Academy of Professional Coders, the American Health Information Management Association, the American Medical Billing Association and the National Health Career Association.
Certificate programs for medical coding and billing are readily available online, but some may require in-person practicums. In order to apply for the program, a high school diploma or the equivalent is required; once enrolled, students should be able to earn a certificate within 6-18 months.