Healthcare is a rapidly growing field with a constant, insatiable demand for new talent. Although most people first think of patient facing professionals when considering healthcare career options, in reality there are a wide variety of behind-the-scenes roles that are equally important to the proper functioning of any healthcare organization. These positions are filled by highly trained professionals who perform accounting, billing, records keeping, and many more administrative tasks. If you are interested in breaking into this interesting and often lucrative field, becoming an expert in medical billing or records administration is a great way to get your foot into the door.
Medical Records Technicians
Medical records technicians are healthcare support professionals who specialize in the organization and categorization of patient records. Medical records technicians do not deal with patients directly, but instead support other healthcare professionals by ensuring that the information collected during medical exams is properly transcribed and coded into computer filing systems. Although it may not seem glamorous, this is an absolutely vital role as doctors, nurses, and technicians rely on accurate patient records to diagnose and treat patients.
Although medical records technicians do not interact with patients directly, they do generally work in normal healthcare settings such as hospitals or smaller practices. Medical records technicians are expected to interact with doctors, nurses, and technicians to clarify diagnosis or symptom notes in order to accurately transcribe them into filing systems. This means that medical records technicians must be detail oriented, quick to learn, and excellent at communication.
Medical Billing Specialists
Medical billing specialists (also sometimes known as billing coders) perform a role that is a tightly coupled to that of medical records technicians. Where medical records technicians are responsible for translating patient exam information into medical records systems, medical billers are responsible for using that information to manage patient claims with insurance companies. Medical billers work on behalf of providers (hospitals, clinics, individual doctors, etc.) to ensure that insurance companies authorize and pay for necessary diagnostics and procedures.
Medical Records and Billing Education
Both medical billing specialists and medical records technicians are positions which require specialized education. Although most jobs in these fields do not require a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree is often considered a major plus. Schools which offer healthcare programs will often offer specialized degrees or programs in medical coding, medical billing, or combined programs which cover both topics. Many of these programs are often offered online and certificate level programs can generally be completed in less than a year.
For prospective medical billers, the American Medical Billing Association (AMBA) offers the Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) exam. This exam covers a wide variety of topics ranging from basic anatomy to medical coding. Medical billers are not required by law to hold this certification, but many employers expect their billers to have passed the exam. Many schools which offer medical billing programs will offer courses specifically intended to help students study for and ultimately pass this exam.
On the other hand, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) is the most important professional organization for medical records technicians. The AAPC offers the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification, which is generally considered within the healthcare industry to be the most important qualification for professional records technicians. As with the CMRS exam, many medical records schools will offer programs specifically designed to instruct students in the skills necessary to pass this exam.