Proper medical coding and billing is one of the most complex tasks that health administrators face. Correct coding translates to accurate compensation for services rendered. The ongoing overhaul of the health insurance market in America, plus the advent of a new code set in fall of 2014, combine to create a strong need for skilled coders. Read on to learn more about this profession.
Since medical coding specialists must meet specific board certifications, there are several professional organizations to help aspiring and current coders master the new ICD-10 manuals and EHR updates.
- American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) – The AAPC delivers professional credentialing to physician-based medical coders. Training classes and continuing education keep coders properly certified; a jobs board also provides employment leads. Local chapter events also provide networking opportunities.
- Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) – This membership-based organization provides professional credentials, recertifications, networking avenues and continuous process improvement within the coding industry. Instructor certification is also available, and untrained coders can qualify for employment within a few months.
- American Health Information Management Assocation (AHIMA) – The largest professional association in the medical coding industry, AHIMA boasts over 71,000 members in all 50 states. Multiple coding and specialty certifications may be earned or recertified; members may also attend conferences and seminars to network and earn continuing education credits. AHIMA also publishes several professional journals and industry newsletters.
- American Medical Billing Association (AMBA) – This organization offers introductory classes like online billing and coding, as well as start-up tools for new businesses. An annual conference allows members to meet and mingle. In an interesting twist, free medical billing practice games help members sharpen their skills.
- Medical Association of Billers (MAB) – The MAB is approved by the U.S. Dept. of Education for delivering postsecondary education in medical billing and coding. Besides certification, members have access to a bi-monthly newsletter, discounted refresher programs, and discounted online classes.
- American Association of Clinical Coders and Auditors (AACCA) – The AACCA offers its members certification in coding, chart review, and auditing. Of all compliance entities in the industry, only the AACCA awards credentials to RNs, physicians, paramedics, and physical therapists in chart review. All certified members are listed in a national professional directory.
- American Association of Healthcare Administration Management (AAHAM) – This organization provides healthcare professionals with education, advocacy, and certifications, and offers its members unique networking channels. Administrators in medical records, admitting and registration, and data management and reimbursement may benefit from an AAHAM membership.
Online Journals and Trade Publications
You don’t have to be a member of these professional organizations to be able to take advantage of medical billing trade publications. The journals below are all provided free-of-charge to anyone looking to keep up in this fast-changing industry.
- Healthcare Business Monthly – Published by the AAPC, Healthcare Business Monthly is targeted toward practice managers, compliance experts, auditors, coders, and billers. Recent articles have included an annual salary survey of professionals in the industry.
- Medical Business Journal – The Medical Management Institute publishes this monthly e-newsletter for medical coding professionals. Articles cover topics of interest such as coding updates, industry news, and upcoming educational opportunities.
- Journal of AHIMA – Published 11 times per year, the award-winning Journal of AHIMA covers current trends in the industry, best practices in information management, and emerging issues that affect patients and their physicians. Each issue also contains continuing education quizzes.
- For the Record – This magazine is an award-winning publication dedicated to health information management professionals. Recent article topics covered HIPAA risk assessment, bad coding habits, the upcoming switch to ICD-10, and speech recognition technology used in billing and coding.
- BC Advantage – In-depth coverage of current events in coding, compliance, billing, and reimbursement is found in every issue of this magazine. Practical information about career advancement and office best practices is also included. Some recent topics of discussion were audits, percentage billing, and document cloning.
- Billing – Published by the Healthcare Billing and Management Association, Billing is a bimonthly journal. Topics in the most recent issue included the use of technology to cut costs and increase efficiency, risk management in billing, electronic health records best practices, and ICD-10 training and implementation.
- Journal of Allied Health – The official journal of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions, this publication highlights scholarly endeavors in research and development, book reviews, study abstracts, and feature articles of interest to allied health professionals.
Medical billing books are one of the best old school routes to studying updates in billing and coding. The following books provide the latest information in coding standards, reference and electronic health record keeping.
- Independent Medical Coding: The Comprehensive Guidebook for Career Success As a Medical Coder – Considered an industry gold standard, this book addresses issues pertinent to medical billing and coding specialists. Types of coding systems and certifications are discussed, and numerous resources for independent business owners are provided.
- Medical Terminology and Anatomy for ICD-10 Coding, 1e – This book offers the most current information on ICD-10 coding, including the complete code set and related medical information and terminology. Data is organized exactly as within ICD-10/PCS, so you’ll begin to familiarize yourself with lookup procedures immediately. Readers may perform sample exercises found in the book for practice.
- Medical Billing and Coding for Dummies – Designed for readers who are completely new to the industry, this book offers readers practical advice about relevant legislation and rules, education options, data resources, and certification requirements.
- Medical Billing & Coding Demystified – This title is geared toward self-starters who plan to enter the medical billing and coding industry. Healthcare providers follow similar principles and practices everywhere; this book clearly outlines them for readers.
- Medical Abbreviations and Acronyms – This quick study guide is actually a 2-page pamphlet. This resource lists the acronyms and common abbreviations that coders and billers are most likely to see in their work. Similar pamphlets that detail terminology and anatomy basics are published by the same company, and may be equally useful to medical coders.
- Understanding Health Insurance – A Guide to Billing and Reimbursement: Thorough coverage of medical billing and coding knowledge is presented in this book. Current code sets and insurance claim form guidelines are included. Readers are also introduced to managed healthcare and its rules and regulations, as well as a breakdown of the types of health insurance you may encounter. Each chapter offers sample exercises, and the accompanying workbook and software can further help you test your knowledge.
- CPT 2013: Standard Edition – Published by the American Medical Association, this codebook will be a go-to item in the workplace. Codes are organized by procedure, service, abbreviation, anatomic area, condition, and abbreviation. Experienced coders will find the “New from Last Year” section useful, as it quickly summarizes any changes.
- Basic Current Procedural Terminology and HCPCS Coding Exercises – Intended for coding specialists who are relatively new to the field, this title uses case studies from actual practice to introduce coding best practices. Students learn to assess the patient case as a whole and ask the questions that lead to proper coding and billing.
Blogs and other Web Resources
Outside of formal professional organizations and publications, it is nice to feel connected with other experts in your field. Blogs and other discussion forums offer a great place for new and seasoned coders to share their experiences in different types of professional settings. You’ll get a better feel for the experiential side of coding from some of these less official industry sites.
- Advance for Health Information Professionals – This site is entirely devoted to issues surrounding health information management. Resources include detailed information on the upcoming switch to a new code set, access to continuing education, and explanations of all regulatory changes that affect the profession. Regular columns cover patient privacy, Medicare fraud, and on-the-job tools.
- Fierce Health Finance – This subscription-only newsletter is emailed weekly. Standard subject matter includes billing and coding, health plan reimbursement, revenue collections, and more.
- Claim Care – Written by Carl Mays, the owner of a medical billing company, this blog contains a plethora of helpful information for medical billers. Articles on upcoming changes in the industry, HIPAA compliance, tax issues, billing fee structure, and revenue management are just a few topics discussed here.
- Allen School blog – Authored by faculty at an online school for medical billing and coding, blog entries here have discussed such varied subjects as medical innovation, career advice, and tips and tricks to use on the job. Archived articles are available from May 2009 and beyond.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Twitter is quickly becoming a great place to stay up on the biggest stories, discussions and updates in this technical field. Here are a few medical coding related Twitter accounts we think are worth following.
- @ACOMC – Links to case studies and relevant news in healthcare can be found here.
- Medical Coding Help @Codapedia – Based in Vermont, this Twitter account serves as a help line for working billers and coders. Volunteers answer questions that other coders may have about specific procedures and treatments.
- @CodingNotes – reports on news in billing and coding, as well as provides subscribers with tips and tricks, and information about educational opportunities.
- Melissa Clark CCS-P @MelissaAnnClark tweets about news and events in the medical coding and billing world.