Medical coding and billing positions are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that job demand for coding and billing professionals will grow between 13 and 21 percent by 2026. However, healthcare providers are experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals to manage the aging population.
Medical coding and billing has many career paths people can choose from. Each position has different responsibilities, work environment and salaries. In this article, we list the best paid positions available to medical coding and billing specialists.
Medical coders are professionals tasked with reviewing and assigning accurate medical codes to clinical statements. Such codes identify diagnoses, procedures and other services that were performed by a healthcare provider. Medical coders are proficient in many different areas, including surgery, radiology, and general medicine.
To become a medical coder, healthcare workers must train and obtain a certificate. The AAPC, for example, offers the Certified Medical Coder (CPC) certificate. Workers who complete the certification process often have mastery of all code sets, evaluation and management basics, as well as documentation guidelines.
The average salary of a medical coder is around $54,000. However, actual salaries differ according to local demand, individual experience and other credentials. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job demand for medical coders will increase by 22 percent between 2017 and 2022. This means average salary for the position may grow, as the bureau also expect to not be sufficient skilled workers to fill demand.
Outpatient coders are medical coders with the required knowledge to handle specialized payment and coding standards related to outpatient procedures such as same day surgery or diagnostic testing. Most outpatient coders work in places such as ambulatory surgical centers and are also knowledgeable about all standard coding practices.
Workers working in outpatient facilities often hold a Certified Outpatient Coder (COC) or similar certificate. A significant number of workers pursued a CPC certification before undergoing training for specialized outpatient procedures. The training process for outpatient coder is similar to that of certified coder. For example, both teach workers skills related to evaluation, management and documentation guidelines. However, the COC program also gives workers much needed skills to handle specific issues, such as medical necessity and claim denials.
The average salary of an outpatient coder is $60,000. However, actual salary may vary depending on experience and local demand. Expert outpatient coders working on states with high demand for healthcare professionals can earn as much as $65,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job demand for this and similar positions to grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.
The Inpatient Coder job position is relatively new compared to others on this list. AAPC is the only institution offering a Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) certification. This credential prepares healthcare workers to handle medical records which use two specific medical codes related to inpatient procedures. The medical codes handled by inpatient coders are designed to handle medical severity diagnosis groups and prospective payment systems.
Inpatient coders share knowledge with other coding professionals, including expertise with anatomy, physiology and other medical disciplines. This includes medical codes designed to identify diagnosis, procedures and treatments. Becoming a certified inpatient coder does not require a previous coding credential. Potential coders can receive specialized training that covers only the knowledge needed to work in an inpatient setting.
The average salary of an inpatient coder is $49,000. This amount is lower than other positions, such as medical coder and outpatient coder. However, actual salary is often affected by local demand and previous experience. The reason why salary of inpatient coders is lower might be due to how narrow their knowledge is. This may make it difficult for an inpatient coder to, for example, switch to a standard medical coder position without further training.
Risk Adjustment Coder
Risk adjustment coders are healthcare professionals capable of dealing with medical cases related to risk adjustment models. This includes extensive knowledge of hierarchical condition categories (HCC), chronic illness and disability payment systems (CDPS) and other risk adjustment policies established by the U.S. Department of Human Services (HSS). Risk adjustment coders determine which medical codes better represent the medical condition of a patient according to risk of disease or death. Which code is assigned has a significant impact on healthcare costs and needs.
A Certified Risk Adjustment (CRC) credential is often needed to land a job as a risk adjustment coder. In most cases, people working on this position previously trained for a standard medical coder position before specializing in risk adjustment. The AAPC offers a 4-month training course for coders looking to specialize in risk adjustment. During training, coders also learn to understand audit processes and documentation guidelines related to risk adjustment, as well as additional expertise in anatomy and medical terminology.
Risk adjustment coders are among the best paid non-managerial coding positions in the market. On average, risk adjustment coders earn $62,000 per year. However, their salary can be much higher in areas with high demand, or due to previous experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job demand for this position is expected to grow by 13 percent in the next five years.
Medical billers are healthcare professionals in charge of following up on claims and receiving payment from insurance companies. Medical billers make sure healthcare providers are paid by billing both patients and insurance companies. To do so, they collect information about the patient, including their health coverage, personal details, medical history, and report on which procedures were performed.
Most medical billers hold a high school diploma and a Certified Professional Biller (CPB) certificate. The training process gives healthcare workers expertise on insurance plans, payer policies, local and national coverage determinations. They are also trained on how to compile clinical documents known as claims, which are necessary to bill both patients and insurance companies. Medical billers are also taught coding fundamentals that allow them to work closely with coders.
The average salary of a medical biller is $52,000 per year. However, billers working for large healthcare providers can earn as much as $60,000 to compensate for high volume of claims being processed. Actual salary is also affected by other credentials and years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for this and other positions is expected to increase at least 10 percent in the next ten years.
Medical auditors are professionals that help healthcare providers maintain accurate and compliant medical records. They perform detailed audits that help improve how clinical documentation and other medical records are handled and stored. Such audits also protect healthcare providers from potential fines and other penalties related to non-compliance.
Medical auditors require certification to work in the field. The AAPC, for example, offers a Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA) program that prepares healthcare professionals for the job. The training gives prospective medical auditors knowledge about auditing practices such as Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) and handling private payer denials. It also provides extensive training on coding and documentation guidelines that providers must follow to be in compliance with laws and regulations.
The average salary of medical auditors is $65,000 per year. This amount can vary according to location, years of experience and other credentials held. However, medical auditors can also perform audits for several healthcare providers simultaneously, increasing their earnings. Demand for medical auditors is not expected to grow as fast as other billing and coding careers. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several thousand new job openings will be made available in the next few years.
Documentation Expert Outpatient
Documentation experts have expertise reviewing outpatient clinical documentation and providing suggestions to guarantee accuracy of medical codes. They aid medical auditors to improve how healthcare providers handle clinical documentation, making sure it meets required quality standards and regulations.
Most documentation experts hold an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or certification from a professional association. AAPC, for example, offers a Certified Documentation Expert Outpatient (CDEO) certificate to medical coding and billing professionals interested in the specialization. AAPC recommends at least two years of coding and billing experience before enrolling in their training program. The online course lasts for three months and provides knowledge on clinical documentation improvement, quality measures, payment methodologies and advanced coding concepts.
The average salary of a documentation expert is around $64,500 per year. This amount is similar to other medical auditor positions, as they often share responsibilities within healthcare providers. Documentation experts working in high demand areas or for several providers may earn up to $70,000. Demand for documentation experts is growing as fast as other medical auditing positions.
Physician Practice Manager
Physician Practice Managers are professionals in charge of managing and administrating the operations of a healthcare provider. They are usually hired to manage doctor offices, medical clinics, hospital departments and other healthcare facilities. As such, they must have extensive understanding of insurance policies, healthcare business, corporate practices and human resource management.
Working as a physician practice manager requires a wide ranges of skills. Unlike other billing and coding positions, most practice managers hold a bachelor’s degree as well as several certifications enhancing their knowledge. AAPC offers the Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM) certification, which can obtained by medical coding and billing professionals who hold at least an associate’s degree. Their online training course can be completed in three months.
The average salary of a physician practice manager is $68,000 per year. However, location, type of provider and local demand also affect actual salaries. For example, a physician manager working at a medical clinic may earn as much as $90,000.
Professional Compliance Officer
Compliance Officers are healthcare professionals who have expertise dealing with government regulation, laws and guidelines. Their job is to make sure a healthcare provider’s operations comply with such rules in order to meet the requirements set by the Affordable Care Act. Compliance Officers develop, implement and monitor compliance protocols.
Most compliance officers hold a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare related field. They also hold several credentials, including a Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO) certificate, or similar. AAPC offers a three-month online course designed for experienced medical coders and billers, which provides the necessary skills to work as a compliance officer.
Compliance officers earn a salary that matches other managerial positions. On average, they earn around $74,000 per year, which makes them one of the highest-paid medical coding and billing specializations. U.S. News and World Report has ranked the position among the top 30 best business jobs nationwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that demand for compliance officers will grow 8 percent by 2026.
There are several reasons why people should start a career in medical coding and billing. Read here to learn more about them.