Medical billing is an important part of the medical administration process and is a popular career path for those wanting to get into medical office work. It is a fairly easy career to get into, but does take some study and time and to learn. It is closely related to medical coding and transcription, but may or may not include those skill sets as part of the job. The following is a rundown of some background information you need if you’re going to get into this career.
Medical billing work consists, not surprisingly, of dealing with billing for medical offices. This may be done either in office or remotely. Medical billing work has a number of different facets including the following:
Medical Insurance Billing
Billers that work for medical offices generate bills and insurance claims and are responsible for sending them to insurance companies. They may do this either through the internet or ordinary mail. The entire business of medical billing, like much else, is becoming increasingly automated and electronic, so often the submission process is done through internet portals that allow professionals to submit the necessary medical billing forms.
Given the fact that dealing with insurance companies often involves electronic filing of claims, medical billing professionals often need to know how to use various types of medical billing software and interfaces that are employed in this process.
An important part of the insurance billing process is what is known as follow up. This means that the billing professional working in the office (or outside service) tracks the progress of insurance claims, sees that no errors have been made, resubmits bills if necessary, and in general makes sure claims are paid to the best of their ability. A somewhat inside fact of this business is that the skill that medical billers are considered to have is to some degree based on their effectiveness in getting claims paid by insurance companies.
Medical billers also work handling patient accounts and sending bills to patients. They tally up the charges for medical services such as diagnostic work, treatments and procedures, prescriptions, and so on, and compile them in bill format. There may be a number of different documents that are generated based on what a patient is charged.
An important part of this work is the knowledge of medical codes, which are conventions for representing medical services that are used universally on medical bills. Often coding itself is a separate career, but it may be included in the work of a medical biller. Regardless, a medical biller needs to be very familiar with these codes so that bills can be compiled accurately both for patient billing and insurance purposes.
Running a Medical Billing Business
This is definitely a career that can and is freelanced. That is, medical billers can set up their own home businesses and get outsourced medical billing work from medical offices of various different types. Often much of this is done electronically, with medical offices forwarding the basic patient data, the biller compiling it into bills, statements and claims using software, and filing these electronically with insurance companies or sending them to patients. Though it takes more administrative responsibility and business savvy, this can be a lucrative way to do the work.
General Medical Office
In addition to these bill specific tasks, medical billers may also be involved in simple office procedures like patient filing and so on. There may be secretaries to handle this, but sometimes billers share some of these duties.
As far as education goes, there are a number of paths available. Given the fact that no licensing is usually legally required to do medical billing work, education is based on learning the skills necessary in the field and certification of some sort is for the most part voluntary. The following are some of the common education paths in medical billing:
It is possible to simply read books on medical billing, get hired, and get trained on the job. Since there are no licenses required, on the job training is one of the ways to mater the skills necessary.
Certificate programs are often offered by career or vocational schools and community colleges. These programs often last around a year and one of the shortest routes to getting into the business. The certificates granted from these programs are often considered an adequate credential for a job position, but they may not be quite as well viewed as Associate and Bachelor’s degrees.
Another common route is to get an associate’s degree in medical billing from a community college, career school, or regular 4 year academic college. These programs may include instruction in coding as well as billing. Coding, as noted, is a closely related discipline to medical billing.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Bachelor’s degree programs are a less common type of program for medical billers to complete, but there are such programs available. Often these programs include a large range of skills used in medical office administration as part of the degree.
The medical billing career is expected to grow along with many other allied health fields in the coming years. Job demand may increase as much as 18% percent over 2008 figures. This means that for those interested in the career, the employment outlook is good. This may vary from area to area, but in general plenty of medical billers are being hired.
Medical billing is a career that combines a penchant for financial work with an interest in the health field. People who have an interest in both should consider this type of work. It is reasonably easy to start in this field with a moderate amount of education, and form it one can move on to a variety of other health administration and allied health fields. It is a growing career that will see expansion and will most likely become more internet based in the future. Thus computer skills also factor heavily into the profession. If you possess any of these skills or they interest you, consider medical billing as a possible career path or business idea.