Use this guide to get educated about online degrees for medical billing and coding before you enroll.
3 Ways to Spot a Medical Billing Online School Scam
According to the Federal Trade Commissions, the only thing growing faster than the need for trained health informatics and medical coding specialists is the "learn medical billing from home
" business scam. Companies selling packages that promise to train you to operate a home-based medical billing business are nearly always scams.
Medical billing is a high growth field that promises good pay and great advancement potential. With very little education, often just an online medical billing certificate
, specialists can net an average salary of about $33,000. The highest 10 percent, with management experience and a two-year or associate's degree
, can earn more than $52,000.
Low education coupled with high pay have made the medical billing and informatics career area a hot sector for online education scams.
Online Medical Billing Schools and the Home-Based Business Scam
Online medical billing schools that advertise home training plus medical billing software packages are the most notorious. These schools promise that if you buy their home-based business packages, you will be able to complete their online training and begin soliciting clients—doctor's offices and medical clinics in your area—and build your own exclusive client base. You'll get both the training you need and a turnkey home-based business, promise these schools.
Doctor's offices and medical facilities do need informatics and billing specialists. But they rarely hire home workers who cold call them. Most hire certified professionals to work on site or they train office employees themselves. Large medical facilities often outsource their billing functions to large multi-national companies.
Enroll with these online school scams and you'll be paying a lot of money for some poorly-designed software and a home-based business that has no real client base.
Medical Billing Schools Online that Sell Software
Medical billing or coding specialists do use special software. That software is written using the medical terminology or codes that correspond to how doctors diagnose and insurance companies bill. These diagnostic codes, known as CPT codes and ICD-9 codes, determine the categories and costs allowed by facilities and insurance carriers for medical care.
Buying "billing software" will not make you a medical billing specialist nor will it secure you a job in the informatics field. Buying this software will make you the owner of a useless program and a few medical code manuals that you likely could have gotten free online or bought at a huge discount.
Real Accredited Online Colleges for Medical Billing
Hundreds of private schools and institutes sell medical billing training and software online. These schools are largely unaccredited and unregulated. On the other hand, many accredited colleges also operate medical billing schools online or offer packaged online certificates or degrees. Stick with accredited colleges, such as your local or state community college online
, when searching for web-based schools in this field. If you're uncertain if a college is a scam, check with the Diploma Mill Police
, a free service that chronicles online school scams.
What is a Medical Billing Records or Health Informatics Specialist?
Every time a patient receives health care, a record is maintained of the observations, interventions and outcomes. Medical records and health informatics technicians organize and evaluate these records for completeness and accuracy.
Technicians make sure medical charts and forms are complete, properly identified and authenticated. They often input patient and billing information in the computer. To do this, they must understand the medical coding and billing system, which follows national protocols. They also use computer programs to analyze data to improve patient care, control costs or provide documentation for legal actions or research studies.
Some medical records and health informatics technicians specialize in coding patient medical information for insurance purposes (coders or coding specialists) or in maintaining databases of cancer patients (cancer registrars).
Medical Billing Schools Online — Online Degrees
Medical records and health informatics technicians usually hold an associate's or two-year degree. Some billing technicians become registered health information technicians (RHIT). Earning this private certification post-education will boost both your pay and career prospects.
Coders with advanced degrees often earn salary hikes through specializing in a field or by being promoted to a management position. Most coding and registry skills are learned on the job, but many online schools offer certificates in medical billing or include coding as a critical part of an online associate's or bachelor’s degree in health informatics.
To earn the RHIT, technicians must pass a written exam offered by the American Health Information Management Association. To take the exam, candidates must graduate from a two-year associate's degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Entering the Medical Billing Field
Certificates and associate degrees can lay the foundation for a career in medical coding and records. The RHIT certification post-degree is extremely useful. Coursework in the associate’s degree usually includes medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, legal aspects of health information, health data standards, coding and abstraction of data, statistics and database management.
Nurse Career Changers
This is an excellent career choice for anyone with experience in another healthcare area, such as nursing, or for anyone who has proficiency with computers and records management in an office environment. Those with a computer science background may want to consider earning a medical informatics degree online.
Those who earn bachelor’s or master’s in health informatics
can move quickly into well-paying managerial positions.
Job growth will be strongest in home health care, outpatient care and nursing, and residential care. Certified technicians with a strong background in medical coding and/or computer database management will be in highest demand.