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What is Medical Billing and Coding?

Stethoscope and medical billing and coding

Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

The healthcare industry continues to create an explosion of jobs in the United States. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an additional 2 million jobs — a growth rate of 13% — through 2031. While many of those positions are for doctors, nurses and dental hygienists, it also includes medical billing and coding professionals.

With millions more Americans seeking coverage, the need for employees continues growing. Hospitals, doctor's offices and outpatient centers are just some organizations and providers driving the demand. In addition, as the country’s baby boomers continue to age and require more services, now is truly the time to land a position in healthcare.

One area of need within healthcare is that of medical billers and coders. If you’re unfamiliar with the position, read on to find out exactly what medical billing and coding is, if it’s a good fit for you, and what earning a bachelor's degree can do for your career.

What Exactly Does a Medical Biller and Coder Do?

An infographic with the text BLS predicts an addional 2 million healthcare jobs through 2031Medical billing and coding are essential in healthcare, according to Dr. Lynn Ward, health information management (HIM) program director at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). These health information technicians must integrate themselves with both the software and their team as organizations seek to streamline their operations.

So what exactly do medical billers and coders do? They handle the billing and insurance details in healthcare organizations and billing companies. They may also manage their group's financial and electronic health records (EHRs). Their role is essential because it provides patient-facing professionals with the information they need to improve the quality of care and providers with what they need to decrease the number of billing errors and improve care coordination in an industry that demands it.

The demand for highly educated professionals will be even more critical. These individuals will take on management and leadership roles, creating decentralized teams that support units within large healthcare settings such as hospitals and making recommendations that support an organization's technology, security and compliance needs. With a bachelor's degree, you'll be well qualified to be at the helm of these departments.

According to BLS, medical records specialists such as coders and billers may also:

  • Look over patient information for pre-existing conditions
  • Assign diagnoses and procedure codes for patient care, health statistics and billing purposes
  • Work as a go-between with the health clinician and billing offices

Medical billing and coding are necessary for almost every health setting. In addition to the hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient centers previously mentioned, these jobs can be found at long-term care facilities, ambulatory care facilities, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical manufacturers, behavioral health organizations, governmental healthcare agencies and healthcare-related organizations.

In other words, coders and billers can be found everywhere. And with a bachelor's degree in this field, so can plenty of opportunities for HIM managers.

What Education is Necessary for Medical Billing and Coding?

Dr. Lynn Ward with the text Dr. Lynn WardWhat is medical billing and coding in terms of the education needed for this type of career? In many instances, a certificate in billing and coding may get your foot in the door for an entry-level position. However, when it comes to the growth in healthcare, the educational edge — like a bachelor's degree — may help you get ahead and prepare you to take on additional responsibilities.

“The (Bachelor of Science) in Health Information Management program is a good fit for a student interested in this career path, especially for someone who would like to work in management of an HIM department,” Ward said.

A health information management degree program teaches the technology, terminology and professional skills required for an HIM career, especially in advanced roles. You can learn to:

  • Analyze the uses, risks and management of health statistics and biomedical research data and support performance improvement programs
  • Evaluate information system applications for their capacity to meet the needs of healthcare organizations
  • Interpret and apply current laws regulations, policies and healthcare ethics as they relate to decision-making in healthcare delivery and systems
  • Apply health data structure, standards and regulations to manage clinical classification systems and reimbursement
  • Implement and manage hardware and software technologies to ensure effective data collection, storage, analysis and reporting of information
  • Use current management principles to propose solutions and develop project management plans that solve organizational challenges

The courses that make up the HIM program create a well-rounded degree — and a skilled, capable graduate. The program includes a medical billing and coding course, where you'll learn about the technologies used in the industry. If you're not quite ready to take on a full degree program, you're able to take this course on its own to determine if medical billing and coding courses are worth it for you.

Aside from the coding courses, you can learn more about healthcare management, project management, human resources, data analytics, computer platform technologies, pathophysiology and pharmacology, and the ethics and legal aspects of HIM. In a medical billing or coding career, this knowledge will complement your training, giving you an edge in your current position, providing a holistic view of your role in the healthcare industry and setting you up for success for other possible HIM careers down the road.

If you wish to take your training and education further, you can explore master’s programs, such as an Master of Science (MS) in Health Information Management or an MBA in Healthcare Management that can offer you the level of advancement or salary bump you’re looking for.

What is Medical Billing and Coding’s Job Outlook?

Similar to the rest of the healthcare industry, job growth for medical billing and coding specialists looks good. Positions for medical records specialist will grow by 7% through 2031 and earned a median salary of $46,660 in 2021, according to BLS.

“As baby boomers age and require more medical services, we’ll need more health information technicians to manage all of their data,” Ward said. “This increase in demand — combined with the number of insured citizens on the rise — will mean more reimbursement claims from insurance companies. The industry will need more trained HIM staff to stay organized.”

Discover more about SNHU’s bachelor's in health information management: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.

Deidre Ashe ‘18G is a copywriter in higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.