Every medical service provider, health clinic, doctor’s office, specialist center, hospital, urgent care facility, and walk-in health care service has a specific process in place for medical billing. Because there are so many different insurance companies and government programs, medical billing is complicated. Physicians, nurses, and medical assistants do not want to deal with the complexities of the medical billing process, so they hire administrative professionals to handle these tasks for them.
A person who completes an online medical billing degree has the potential to enjoy a personally and professionally rewarding career. These online programs are convenient because you do not have to leave your home in order to attend the classes. Educators are available through email and chats. The classes are flexible, so you can fit them around your childcare, work, or errands. You do not need to worry about the hassle or expense of transportation when completing an online medical billing degree.
These online programs are ideal for anyone who wants to increase their level of education and build more skills for an in-demand job with the potential for growth.
What Is a Medical Billing Degree?
A medical billing degree is a post-secondary certification or program that teaches students about the medical billing process from entering data into billing software to properly communicating with medical facilities and insurance companies. These programs typically take eight to 12 months to complete. Further certification is often required in order to become a medical billing specialist.
Because most providers, clinics, and hospitals use electronic medical records, the medical billing process is typically done on a computer. As such, programs focus on this type of health information technology and how to properly use it. Sometimes, these programs are called health information management, health care information technology, or health care administration.
Where Can You Take an Online Medical Billing Degree?
There are many educational institutions that offer an online medical billing degree. Some of them have occasional in-person requirements for testing or turning in assignments. Other programs may be 100 percent online. As such, it is important for you to thoroughly research any program before you sign up for it.
The educational institutions offering medical billing programs are typically two-year colleges and online-only colleges. You may also find that your local career center or community college has one of these online programs.
Some of the institutions currently offering online medical billing degree programs include:
- Ultimate Medical Academy
- Purdue University
- Liberty University
- Rasmussen College
- Grantham University
- Branford Hall Career Institute
- American College for Medical Careers
- Southeastern Institute
- Harris School of Business
What Types of Courses Are Studied in This Online Degree Program?
When you participate in an online medical billing program, you will take different types of courses that are related to health care, technology, and medicine. Each program has slightly different course requirements.
Some of the classes that are typically studied in these online degree programs include:
- Human anatomy and physiology: The study of the parts of the human body and the functions they perform.
- Medical terminology: This subject involves learning the Greek and Latin root words, prefixes, and suffixes that are used in order to describe diseases and conditions of humans.
- Communication: You may take classes in written communication, how to keep medical data private, and how to communicate over the phone.
- Health data requirements and standards: These classes include the details about what needs to be recorded for billing purposes and the proper order and level of detail that is required in the documentation.
- Classification and coding systems: These courses cover the current international classification of disease (ICD) billing codes that are used by the state and federal government health programs and private insurance programs.
- Health care reimbursement methods: In these courses, you will study the different ways in which health care providers and facilities are reimbursed for the services and products they provide to patients. The classes may cover state and federal government programs, private insurance, health savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts, and self-pay patients. For private insurance, the courses cover HMO and PPO options. The courses also go into detail about Medicare plans and the Affordable Care Act.
- Health care statistics: Health care statistics includes understanding the reach of the health care system and performing mathematical calculations on the information collected by the billing and coding software.
- Computer systems: You will take courses in computer systems in order to understand the types of software and databases that are used in medical billing.
Are There Any Prerequisites for Entering a Medical Billing Degree Program?
For most online medical billing degree programs, you do not need to have a college education or experience in the health care setting. However, past work in a medical office may help with your understanding of the course material and increase your ability to quickly find employment after earning your certificate or degree in medical billing. Most of the programs simply require a high school diploma or a GED.
If you are bilingual or speak more than two languages, you may have an advantage when applying for jobs after completing your degree. However, most of the online medical billing degree programs are in English.
What Is the Employment Outlook for Medical Billing Degrees?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment for health information technicians and medical billing specialists is expected to grow by 13 percent between the years 2016 and 2026. In 2016, about 206,300 people were employed as medical records and medical billing workers. The number is expected to grow to 234,100 people by 2026, for a net increase of more than 27,000 jobs. This is faster than the national average for all jobs.
A lot of the growth will be related to the aging of the American population. As the Baby Boomer generation gets older, their need for health care will increase. This means more medical services billing to handle. For example, increases in the rates of chronic conditions among the elderly will lead to increased utilization of health care services. Every visit results in at least one billing cycle. If a patient sees more than one provider or has a procedure done, this could result in multiple billing processes that need to be performed. The ongoing transition to electronic medical records will also create more work for healthcare information technicians and medical billing professionals. Medical billing and medical records professionals who have additional certifications as a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or a Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) are expected to enjoy the best employment prospects.
The median annual wage for medical billing professionals was just over $39,000 in May 2017. This annual income is about four percent higher than the annual income for all jobs. The lowest paid medical billing jobs tend to be in physician offices and assisted living facilities. The highest paying jobs are typically in hospitals, scientific centers, and governmental agencies. With an online medical billing degree and some years of experience in the job, some highly motivated people may be able to advance their careers into management or training positions. These opportunities could allow you to earn a higher income and enjoy more satisfaction on the job.
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