Medical billers and coders serve several important functions. In addition to helping providers obtain the appropriate reimbursement for products and services rendered, these healthcare professionals also reduce the risk of claim-based errors and fraud – both of which can affect patient care while also impacting healthcare costs.1
Although employment in the field of secretaries and administrative assistants is experiencing a 10% decline, the medical secretary and administrative assistant field – which is where medical billers and coders fall – is projected to grow 7% from 2022 to 2032.2 If you’re interested in pursuing one of these growing healthcare roles, you may be wondering what you’d learn in a medical billing and coding education or training course.
Here we share general topic areas covered, courses that may be included in a medical billing and coding diploma program, soft skills you may learn, and how some programs even prepare you to sit for a certification exam, if you qualify. We also provide some education options should you decide to take the next steps and are ready to enroll in a medical billing and coding program.
Technically, medical billing and medical coding are two separate roles. Yet, some healthcare organizations combine them, resulting in one singular medical billing and coding position.
Topics Covered in a Medical Billing and Coding Program
Medical billers and coders translate a patient’s health information into universally recognized codes, then these codes are used to send a bill to the insurance provider or other responsible payer. Types of health information translated into codes include a patient’s diagnoses, any diagnostic tests, and treatments, including medical services and equipment.
To perform this job function, medical billers and coders need to be familiar with the standardized coding systems, which include:
- International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes, which are used for billing purposes in addition to providing disease statistics, data about safety and quality in healthcare, and other areas of public health services research3
- Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes, which are used to code medical procedures and services, and they also play an important role in reporting patient information accurately and effectively4
- Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes, of which there are two levels:5
- Level I HCPCS codes are comprised of CPT codes, but they don’t include codes used to denote medical services and items typically billed by non-physician suppliers
- Level II HCPCS codes denote services and products with no corresponding CPT codes, such as prosthetics and ambulance services
Medical billing and coding training involves learning about these coding systems as well as how to use them. Don’t worry that you have to memorize every single code because you don’t – which is good because the most recent version of ICD codes (ICD-11) includes more than 17,000 unique codes and over 120,000 codable terms.6 Instead, you only need to know how to find the required code, with these coding systems being available digitally.
Other topics that are important to know when working in the medical billing and coding field and, thus, are often covered in education or training programs include:
- medical terminology
- medical records management
- healthcare communication
- medical law and ethics
- healthcare claims cycle
- healthcare claims processing
- human anatomy and physiology
If You Enroll in a Medical Coding and Billing Associate Degree Program
You have several program options for learning the information and skills needed to work in this healthcare role. You can pursue a medical billing and coding certificate, diploma, or associate degree. While typically these program types cover the coding systems and several of the topics mentioned previously, if you pursue an associate degree, you will have to take additional courses.
In addition to a basic introductory computer course, medical billing and coding associate degree programs also typically involve the completion of general education courses, which may include those related to:
- English Composition
Soft Skills Learned in Medical Billing and Coding Training
In addition to learning the technical skills required to work in a medical coding and billing role, developing certain soft skills can help, too. Soft skills are qualities or personal attributes that can help make you more effective or efficient in your position, and they may be covered in medical billing and coding associate degree programs.
Soft skills that may be beneficial for medical billers and coders include:7
- interpersonal skills
- communication skills, particularly in writing
- decision-making skills
- organizational skills
Critical thinking and problem-solving are two additional skills sometimes taught in medical billing and coding associate degree programs.
Preparation for Medical Billing and Coding Certification
Depending on the program, it may also help you prepare to sit for a medical billing and coding certification exam, if you qualify. Certifications related to medical billing and coding include:
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
- Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
Medical billing and coding certifications help show potential employers that you have a certain level of competency in job functions required for this role, which can enable you to stand out from other applicants who lack this kind of credential. Certification may also be required for certain medical billing and coding jobs.
UMA Offers Two Medical Billing and Coding Program Options
If you’re interested in learning what you need to know to work as a medical coding and billing professional, Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) offers two program options. You can enroll in our online Medical Billing and Coding diploma program or our online Medical Billing and Coding associate degree program.
Both programs provide coding and billing training in relevant topic areas and preparation for the CPC certification exam. With the online Medical Billing and Coding associate degree program, you also gain access to general education courses, providing a more well-rounded education and broadening your knowledge and skills in subjects important to this healthcare position.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about your medical billing and coding education options at UMA, contact us today. We’re here to help in any way we can and look forward to taking your call!
In the meantime, check out these resources to learn more about the medical biller and coder role:
Frequently Asked Questions
- Does UMA offer a 4-week online course for medical billing and coding? Not at this time. However, UMA does offer two medical billing and coding program options: a diploma program that can be completed in 11 months7 and an associate degree program that can be completed in 18 months7. These courses are designed to provide more comprehensive knowledge than a 4-week course, which can be helpful when pursuing a medical billing and coding career.
- Do I need a certification for medical billing and coding jobs? Maybe, but not always. Some employers may require you to have a medical billing and coding certification while others do not. Even if it’s not required, earning your certification can help you show your competency in performing required job functions, which can be appealing to prospective employers.
1 AAPC. Getting Started in Medical Coding and Billing: A Guide to the Fundamentals. https://www.aapc.com/resources/getting-started-in-medical-coding-and-billing-a-guide-to-the-fundamentals
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-6
3 World Health Organization. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). https://www.who.int/standards/classifications/classification-of-diseases
4 American Medical Association. CPT Codes. https://www.ama-assn.org/topics/cpt-codes
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. HCPCS Coding Questions. https://www.cms.gov/medicare/coding/medhcpcsgeninfo/hcpcs_coding_questions
5 World Health Organization. ICD-11 2022 Release. https://www.who.int/news/item/11-02-2022-icd-11-2022-release
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-4
7 Completion time can vary depending on individual student.