Training Guide: Certificate or Diploma in Medical Billing and Coding

Whether you are a newbie to medical billing and coding or just started your career in the profession, a diploma or certificate in medical billing and coding would be a good option to enhance your skills in the field. You could either attend a certification training program and eventually get certified or attend a diploma in medical billing and coding and then pursue the career options available. If you are more inclined towards a formal school program, there are associate, bachelor or masters degree programs to choose from.

This guide will provide an overview on how to get a medical billing and coding diploma or certificate training and help to identify a program suited for your needs. We will also look at few industry-leading training programs you might want to consider.

If you are looking for information on schools and degree programs instead of a diploma or certificate, please check the school guide.

Training Programs

Diploma or certificate programs are offered through community colleges, technical schools and online colleges, and vary in requirements and length.Medical billing and coding training programs that award you a certificate or diploma offer a focused set of courses geared directly to medical billing and coding such as medical terminology, electronic medical records practices and medical coding. Because of this, certificate and diploma programs can be completed in much less time when compared to degree programs which typically need minimum of two years to complete.

Certificate

Certificate programs help students seeking new skill development or an opportunity to enhance their existing professional skills. The curriculum offers students foundational training in areas such as office procedures, medical terminology, pathophysiology, electronic medical records, business English and pharmacology.The curriculum of certificate programs focuses on preparing graduates for entry-level positions in the industry in setting such as hospitals, physician’s offices and clinics. Depending on the type of program, a certification training can take as little as four months to as late as 12 or more months to finish.

Some of the common outcomes shared by certificate programs in medical billing and coding include the following:

  • In-depth knowledge of CPT, ICD-I, ICD-10 and HCPCS coding guidelines
  • Understanding of the medical coder and biller role
  • Development of computer, medical software and literacy skills
  • Enhance problem-solving and decision-making abilities in the context of coding and billing decisions
  • Familiarity with ethics, compliance and legal requirements

Students who complete an certificate in medical billing and coding can traditionally apply credits from their program as electives towards a future associate or bachelor’s degree program.

Diploma

Diplomas are a skill enhancement option between the short-term certificate and the longer-term degree programs. Diploma programs prepare students for an entry-level position as a medical biller or coder in a healthcare facility such as a hospital or physician’s office. Unlike the certificate, diploma programs generally require at least 12 months to complete and offer a broader curriculum with topics such as healthcare systems and operations, health information management or insurance claims adjudication. Some programs may require students to complete an internship or research project prior to graduation. The objectives of programs are aimed to make the diploma holders to be able to do the following:

  • Demonstrate a specialized understanding of ICD and CPT coding formats and guidelines
  • Have the ability to classify diagnoses and assign codes properly
  • Select the proper procedure codes for billing purposes
  • Apply their knowledge of medical terminology in order to assign codes
  • Read and process medical documentation to ensure the diagnosis and procedures are supported

What to look for in a Training Program

The classroom based training programs vary by duration, cost, curriculum. The ideal program for you depends on your expectation from the program and the amount of money and time that you are ready to spend. Below are some high level criteria that you may consider while selecting the training program.

Curriculum

The healthcare industry goes through frequent changes and updates related to coding practices and standards, healthcare laws and software and tools used for billing and coding. When considering a medical billing or coding training, you should look for programs that teach latest standards, practices and tools.

The conversion of codes used in medical coding from ICD-9 to ICD-10 is an example of a major update to the way claims were coded. Similarly, introduction HIPAA and the requirement for the coders to be aware of the law while handling healthcare records is a example of a legal regulation. The softwares used for coding and helping coders to guide and refer the coding questions are also getting upgraded.It is important that the training program that you are choosing is up to date with all these aspects in order for you to be job ready at the end of the program.

Accreditation

Accredited training programs or schools are your best bet to get quality education worth your money spend. But as easy as it sounds, it may not always be easy to find a diploma or certificate program accredited by a governing organisation, as easily as you could find an accredited degree program. If you are unable to find an accredited training near to your home, your next option would be to look for institutes or schools which are accredited.

You’ll want to look for at least one of two well known accrediting bodies for medical billing and coding education, Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) and American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). The accreditation will ensure that the school and program follow the guidelines and quality for the training provided thus ensuring that you acquire the skills needed for a job and do not lose your money by attending the program.

Cost

This is pretty brass-tacks stuff, but always consider the cost of the program. The cost varies depending on the program and the school from anywhere from $300 to $3000. While the quality of education typically increases with the cost, that could not be always the case. It may be beneficial to consider a public technical school, community college or university than a private institution for lesser costs.

Best Training Programs

Below are some of the certificate or diploma programs:

Dakota State University – Healthcare Coding Certificate

DSU’s Healthcare Coding Certificate program gives a good overview of the medical coding and also enables you take up further certifications from AHIMA. The program is also a good introductory program for the Associate or Bachelors degrees at DSU. There are options to choose the on campus program at University Center at Sioux Falls or through online. The tuition for the the program is $17000 per year for MN state residents and $20000 for non-residents.

Northwest Technical College – Medical Coding Certificate or Diploma

NTC offers both certificate and Diploma in Medical Coding with varying course credit requirements to complete. The annual cost for the courses is $16000 but the college also offers scholarships named coding grants that may help offset some of these costs.

AAPC – Medical Coding Classroom Courses

AAPC provides medical coding classroom training all over the country which are led by instructors who are certified and affiliated with AAPC. The training has a curriculum that would help you learn the basics of medical coding and would help you to get one the beginner certifications from AAPC.

Conclusion

Whether you’ve got years under your belt already, or you’re just starting in one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, you can identify the best road for your needs from these training programs.

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