Job growth is the healthcare field is expected to outpace all other fields for the next decade. As the American population ages, the need for more professionals in all healthcare occupations also rises. Some experts estimate an increase of about 18 percent in healthcare jobs. This translates to about 2.4 million new jobs.
People automatically think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists or other direct care professionals in this field. While demand for these professionals will certainly grow, there will be a concurrent need for support staff at all levels. Medical coders and billing specialists find themselves ideally positioned for a bright and busy future.
What Do They Do?
Billing and coding specialists translate what happens at the doctor’s office into standard formats. Their work ensures that doctors are paid for what they do.
For example: A patient walks into a doctor’s office with a headache, upset stomach, and a fever. A medical assistant asks the patient their symptoms and performs some initial tests, and then the doctor examines the patient and diagnoses flu. The doctor then prescribes antiviral medicine to the patient.
The doctor, or a member of her staff, records every part of this visit. The medical coder then translates all the relevant information into numeric and alphanumeric codes, which can then be used in the billing process.
A medical biller then takes the information from the coder and uses it to create a bill, or claim, for the insurance company. The biller is responsible for making sure the claim is accurate, and for providing clear billing information to patients and their insurance companies. In the case of unpaid bills, the medical biller may hire a collections agency to ensure the doctor’s office is paid.
How’s the Salary?
Due to the high demand for medical coders and billing specialists, salaries are on the increase. According to the 2017 Healthcare Business Survey, the average medical coder earned about $52,000 per year. In that same year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median wages in the United States at a little over $44,000.
How Long Does It Take to Learn?
Most programs for this profession offer a certificate program which takes less than a year. Training can also be part of a two-year Associate’s Degree, should you choose. Overall, certificate programs are an affordable option with most schools offering flexible evening and weekend classes.
Entering the growing healthcare field doesn’t need to take many years of medical training. Essential support staff in medical billing and coding will find a wealth of opportunities in the years to come.