Passing the exam for a medical billing and coding certification does not mean that your coding credentials are valid forever. Certified professionals have to take accredited medical billing and coding training online, at conferences or at workshops to earn continuing education credits and to keep their certification from expiring. Because coding systems are constantly evolving in order to keep up with changing medical technology, professional coders are expected to stay up to date on the latest guidelines and practices, and this is best done by opting to take more than the minimum continuing education requirements.
Importantly, prospective coders who are thinking about skipping medical coding or medical billing online training and certification programs altogether should be aware that the average salary of certified health information technicians is about 20% higher than that for non-certified workers. Over time, the investment that you make in terms of time and money in earning additional certifications will pay off as your salary increases.
Maintaining certification requires continuing awareness of changing codes, practices and regulations. It also frequently involves a renewal or recertification fee as well as other minor expenses.
Each certifying organization requires specialists to earn a number of continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain a current billing or coding certification. To earn CEUs, certified professionals can choose to take online training for medical billing and coding or attend workshops or conferences in person. Coders must make sure that any CEU programs they attend are accepted by the organization that issues the certification. There are fewer certifications that require medical billing training because most credentials in the field relate to the coding aspect of the profession.
Certified professionals are responsible for documenting and reporting their own CEUs at least once every 2 years, which can often be done online. Although the specific guidelines can differ depending on the credentialing organization and the specific certification, the more certifications a biller or coder has, the more continuing education units are generally required. To earn these credits, the training must be relevant to the specific credential being maintained, and the attendee must provide proof of attendance.
Additional Training and Certifications
Additional coding trainings and certifications teach specialized skills relevant to specific workplaces or fields of medical practice. Before pursuing an additional certification, be sure that it corresponds to your current or desired position because many credentials are only valid for certain places of employment, such as hospitals or doctor’s offices.
Additional certifications from top medical coding online training programs are one of the surest ways for billing and coding professionals to increase their salaries. And in most cases, the increase in pay for earning a specialty coding credential will easily offset the corresponding increase in CEU fee requirements. A few specialty certification fields include obstetrics, pediatrics, chiropractics, cardiology, anesthesia and many more.
Responsibilities and Pay
Responsibilities get more specialized just as the coding credentials do, and health information technician pay generally increases with specialization. While an entry-level coder might do all kinds of general billing and coding work, a specialized coder tends to work only with information within a specific workplace or field of medicine.
Work experience and expertise in office management procedures like claim adjudication and reimbursement are sometimes required to earn a specialty certification. Employees who earn advanced certifications are often rewarded not only with higher pay but also additional roles in office management, auditing and compliance.
Most medical coding certifications must be renewed either every year or every 2 years. Some credential renewals require annual online self-assessments and membership dues as well as a specified number of CEUs.
Because of this, maintaining a certification can be expensive. Consider that the fee for an AHIMA audio seminar can cost more than $200 and the registration fee for AAPC’s annual conference is at least $795. The renewal fee for a certification can cost up to $250 each year, which does not include the cost of courses or membership.
Preparing for the Switch to ICD-10
Even the most widely accepted coding systems are constantly being updated in order to keep up with medical and technological advances. The tenth version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) is the standard diagnostic tool currently endorsed by the World Health Organization.
While ICD-9 is currently still in use, ICD-10 is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2013. The transition to ICD-10 is expected to have a broad impact in the field of medical billing and coding by increasing the following:
• Accuracy of coding
• Efficiency and cost-benefit ratios
• Compatibility of U.S. and international coding systems
• Relevance to recent medical advances
• Benefits of using electronic health records
The best medical billing and coding online training programs, including those where a student earns an associate’s degree or a certificate online or offline, require an understanding of ICD-9 and ICD-10. This requirement prepares students to pass a basic medical billing and coding certification exam and will keep coding specialists ahead of the curve.