Medical coding and billing are essential parts of medical facility operations, because they allow a medical office to bill correctly for services completed by doctors, nurses and other staff. Medical coding and medical billing specialists are in demand, thanks to the many health facilities that are continually in use.
Medical coders read through the notes and documents collected from doctors and nurses and other hospital staff to determine what procedures or services were provided. Coders then find the universal medical codes associated with the procedures and services. These codes are used universally by billing and insurance departments so that the procedures and billing information can be quickly gleaned without having to read through the notes.
Medical billing follows the medical-coding process. Medical billing specialists organize the information and put the data into computer files. Based on the code, the billing department follows pricing guidelines that are established by the hospital or medical facility. These staffers send out bills to patients and insurance companies and keep financial records of paid and past-due bills.
Medical billing and coding careers begin with training and education. Coders must understand medical vocabulary, because they must know how to interpret doctors' notes and determine the correct code. Medical billing specialists must learn the codes and be able to understand the billing procedures for medical offices. An associate's degree might be required for either position.
Medical billing and medical coding staffers can specialize in certain types of coding or billing, such as for radiology or pediatrics practices. This specialization is usually completed through training at the hospital or medical center that offers these positions. Some specialists find they can telecommute from home offices after a year or two of working on-site at a medical facility.
In 2006, medical billing and coding specialists earned $28,000 to $30,000 a year on average, and some specialists earned more than $45,000 a year. The job outlook for both positions is favorable, but coding specialists in particular are expected to be in high demand because of legislation to make electronic medical records mandatory.