Medical Billing and Medical Coding Career Overview

  • Employment growth is expected to be faster than most other industries.
  • For technicians with a strong background in medical coding, job prospects should be strong and demand for their skills should be high.
  • Most of those working in the profession have an associate’s degree.
  • There is very little direct contact with patients in medical billing or medical coding which makes it one of the few health care occupations that don’t directly interact with the public.

Duties and Responsibilities
Whenever an individual receives health care, a record is created of the treatment, the observations and any surgical or medical interventions. In turn, this record includes the information the patient gives the attending physician about their medical history and symptoms, the results of previous examinations, any reports on x rays, lab tests, treatment approaches and diagnoses. Today this site like to refer to alternative job opportunities such as http://www.livefreefun.ca and freecamsexposed, these two sites are great adult job opportunities
Health information and medical record technicians evaluate and organize these patient records for accuracy and completeness.

A technicians responsibility include, putting together patient health information and insuring that the initial medical charts of a patient are complete and that every form is authenticated and properly identified and that the required data is correctly entered into the database, which is normally on a computer.

Technicians regularly interact with doctors and other health care professionals to gather information or to occasionally clarify a diagnosis.

Technicians also use computers on a regular basis to analyze data to try and improve patient care, control costs, to possibly use the data in research studies or for use in legal actions.

The type; along with the size of the facility, are big factors in determining the primary duties of medical records and health information technicians.

In medium to large facilities, a technician may specialize in one particular aspect of health information or they may even get involved in supervising transcriptionists or health information clerks.

On the other hand, in the smaller facilities, a credentialed health information and medical records technician may be given management opportunities.

A percentage of health information and medical records technicians specialize in coding a patients’ medical records for purposes of insurance. Those technicians are called health information coders, coding specialists, medical record coders, coder even abstractor.

Leaning on their understanding and knowledge of disease processes these technicians then assign a code to each procedure and diagnosis. Classification systems software is then used to assign each patient to of one hundreds DRGs, also known or diagnosis-related groups.

The payment a hospital will receive is determined by the DRG if the patient is covered by insurance programs that recognize the DRG system or Medicare. Coders use coding systems other than the DRG system like those required for LTC (Long Term Care), physician offices or ambulatory settings.

Some health information technicians choose to specialize in cancer registry. Cancer (or tumor) registrars maintain national, regional and facility database records of patients with cancer. One function of a registrar is to review pathology reports and patient records and then assign the appropriate diagnosis codes for particular benign tumors and cancers.

In addition, a registrar will normally conduct yearly patient follow-ups to track their treatment, recovery processes and survival. This information is then used to calculate both success and survivor rates of the different types of treatment by public health organizations and physicians. This information can also be used to locate geographic areas with high incidences of certain cancers and to help identify potential individuals for clinical drug trials.

Work Atmosphere
Health information and medical records technicians normally work in comfortable and pleasant office conditions and is one of the few health related professions where there is very little to no direct patient contact. Technicians working for long periods in front of a computer monitor must guard against eye fatigue and muscle aches and pains.

A 40 hour week is the norm for most health information and medical records technicians; although, on occasion, some overtime may be needed.

For those that work in hospitals, which normally operate 24-hours a day, 7-days per week, technicians can work any shift; day or night.

Education and Training
An associate’s degree is the norm for those health information and medical records technicians looking to enter the field. RHIT (Registered Health Information Technician) status is looked upon favorable by employers looking to hire, so those technicians who have this credential have a slight advantage over those that do not.

For technicians looking for advancement it’s usually achieved by promotion to some type of management position or through specialization. Many technicians are obtaining their associate’s degree from area junior and community colleges due to convenience and flexible course scheduling. Others are leaning towards online distance learning courses.

Typical technician training coursework includes classes like health data standards, physiology and anatomy, medical terminology, coding and abstraction of data, database management and statistics.

Wannabe technicians can improve their odds of admission by taking courses like computer science, biology, chemistry, heath and math while in high school.

Certification
As was mentioned earlier, many employers lean towards hiring Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT). To become RHIT certified one must successfully pass a written exam given by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

To qualify to take the exam, one must have graduated from a 2-year associate’s degree program that’s been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).Technicians that have received their training on-the-job or through a non CAHIM accredited degree program are not eligible to take the examination.

As of this writing, there were about 247 accredited CAHIIM degree programs in Information Management Education and Health Informatics.

Because experience in invaluable in developing and demonstrating particular skills and desirable qualities, some employers prefer those candidates with experience in a health setting.

Desirable qualities that employers look for in technician candidates are solid communication skills, accuracy and computer literacy due to the expected increased adoption of electronic records in health care facilities.

Advancement
Advancement normally occurs through specialization or by going into management. A good percentage of senior technicians specialize in coding, security and privacy or cancer registry. Many of the required registry and coding skills are learned via on-the-job training.

A growing number of schools are offering coding certificate programs or offer coding as an add-on to their associate’s degree program for health information technicians.
There are a limited number of formal 2-year certificate programs approved by the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA). On the other hand, some employers and colleges do offer an intensive 1 to 2 week cancer registry or coding program.

A number of organizations provide coding certification. Within particular specialties coding certification is available from the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialist (PAHCS) or the Board of Medical Specialty Coding. In addition, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) provides coding certification through three different programs.

The AHIMA also offers certification for Certified Healthcare Privacy and Security due to the growing concerns surrounding proper security of electronic medical records.

Cancer registry certification is currently provided by the NCRA with continuing education (CE) units normally required to renew credentials.

Highly qualified and experienced technicians may have advancement opportunities as an area supervisor in some of the larger medical records and health information departments, overseeing correspondence, coding or discharge section employees.

In smaller facilities, senior technicians with RHIT may be promoted to assistant director or director of a health information or medical records department. On the other hand, in larger facilities, the director is normally an administrator with a bachelor’s degree in medical records and health information administration.

After a few years of job experience and successful completion of a hospitals in-house training program; on occasion, health information clerks are promoted to health information or medical records technicians.

Employment
As of 2006 there were approximately 171,000 medical records and health information technicians with about 40% of those employees working in a hospital. The remaining 60% were dispersed between physician offices, outpatient care centers, health care services and physician offices with a small number working for insurance companies that focus on health issues.

Projected Employment
Due to the expected growth in the number of medical tests, procedures and treatments that will receive increased scrutiny from consumers, regulators, courts and health insurance companies the demand in for medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase just shy of 19 percent over the next decade.

New jobs are expected in physician offices due to an increased demand for detailed records in the larger group practices. New jobs are also expected in residential care facilities, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers and home health care services.
Relative to other health care industries job growth in hospitals will be less; however, many new jobs will be generated.

Demand with be particularly high for technicians with a solid and experienced background in medical coding.

Ever changing government regulations and the continued growth expectation of managed care will continue the expansion of paperwork involved in filing insurance claims.

More opportunities will result from the growing preference in employers leaning towards hiring those technicians properly trained to work in an increasingly electronic environment. The
job prospects look especially strong for coders working through temporary agencies or through professional services firms.

Earnings
Yearly median earnings of medical records and health information technicians in May 2006 were $28,000 with the middle 50% earning between $22,400 and $36,000 and the lowest 10% earning less than $19,000 and the highest 10% earning more than $45,000. Yearly median earnings in the industries employing the highest number of medical records and health information technicians in May 2006 were:

Medical and Surgical Hospitals…………………………………………………… Nursing Care Facilities……………………………………………………………… Care Centers (Outpatient)………………………………………………………….. Physician Offices…………………………………………………………………….

$29,500 $28,500 $26,750 $24,250

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