Medical Billing & Coding Classes & Courses

Doctors and nurses who provide direct patient care are the most visible professionals in medicine, but there are thousands more whose behind-the-scenes efforts help keep everything running smoothly. Among these are medical billing and coding specialists who communicate with physicians, patients, and insurance companies to ensure that information is documented and processed correctly. This article examines how students can find education opportunities that will prepare them for jobs in medical billing and coding.

Medical Billing & Coding Core Curriculum

Medical billing and coding courses cover a range of topics, both clinical and clerical. Students learn the basics of anatomy, pharmacology and medical terminology, and then combine them with business essentials such as records management. Professionals must stay up-to-date on changes within the healthcare system, particularly insurance billing procedures and privacy laws. Below are examples of classes that a medical billing and coding program may offer:

  • Medical Terminology

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    Medical Terminology

    From complex names for diseases to the shorthand for medical codes, the jargon used in a medical office can seem like another language to unaccustomed listeners. Students in these courses learn the fundamentals and origins of medical terms, as well as how to analyze, define, and create those terms.

  • Medical Office Procedures

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    Medical Office Procedures

    This class teaches students to perform typical administrative assistant duties including telephone call management, electronic and print mail processing, business letter writing, travel and meeting planning, and task management, all within the context of the medical environment.

  • Body Systems I and II

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    Body Systems I and II

    In this series of classes, students gain practical knowledge of the human form and the medical terms associated with the body’s operations, including the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. They also learn terminology used in laboratory settings and pharmacology. The second course builds upon the first, exploring more complex body systems and medical terms related to sense organs, oncology, surgery and pathology, and genetics.

  • Pharmacology

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    Pharmacology

    Drugs can be lifesaving or catastrophic; it’s vital to get the right name, dosage and instructions on the label to prevent a healing agent from turning into a potential toxin. Students in this course will gain experience with drug names—both generic and trade—as well as drug side effects and medication interactions. They’ll also learn how pharmaceuticals correspond to body systems.

  • Medical Billing and Health Insurance

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    Medical Billing and Health Insurance

    This introductory course covers healthcare reimbursement and payment processes for various types of health insurance. Students learn payment systems, fee schedules, charge masters (listings of prices for various procedures), coding procedures, and the internal audit process.

  • Medical Contracts, Ethics, and HIPAA

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    Medical Contracts, Ethics, and HIPAA

    This course examines elements of managed care contracts and covered patient services, including preventive health services and office visits. The course also delves into ethics, addressing protected health information and disclosure under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as electronic health record (EHR) incentives that are offered under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

  • Coding for Hospital Applications/Hospital Medical Billing

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    Coding for Hospital Applications/Hospital Medical Billing

    Medical billing and coding professionals often work in busy, fast-paced hospitals. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011 alone, U.S. emergency rooms saw 136.3 million visitors, a number that doesn’t even include patients admitted to other hospital wards. To keep up, students must learn the differences between inpatient and outpatient services; how to handle standard hospital billing claim forms, and how to submit claims and follow up in a timely fashion.

  • Coding for Medical Office Applications/Physician Medical Billing

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    Coding for Medical Office Applications/Physician Medical Billing

    Medical offices can be just as fast-paced as hospitals and rely on the same standard codes, but they may have individualized processes in place. In this class, students acquire the skills to accurately complete medical claims forms both manually and electronically, particularly the CMS-1500 form (used for Medicare claims); to understand why claims forms are delayed or rejected; and how to file a secondary claim.

  • Basic Coding Using ICD-9 and ICD-10

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    Basic Coding Using ICD-9 and ICD-10

    Each disease, condition, sickness, diagnosis and treatment has a shorthand, coded designation. These codes make it simpler for doctors and nurses to keep track of services that patients receive, as well as help medical billers process claims efficiently. Students in this class become competent in ICD-9, and familiar with the transition to ICD-10 coding. They also learn specialty coding for areas such as cardiology, pathology, and laboratory procedures.

  • Intermediate Medical Coding

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    Intermediate Medical Coding

    Building on the previous basic coding skills course, this class teaches students how to apply the CPT, ICD-9, and ICD-10 classification systems to code diagnoses and procedures.

  • Advanced Medical Coding Scenarios

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    Advanced Medical Coding Scenarios

    In the third tier of courses, students assign codes using CPT, ICD-9, ICD-10, and HCPCS in advanced medical coding scenarios. This class builds on the previous basic and intermediate courses to teach students how to interpret complex medical data, and prepares them to take the CPC-A coding certification exam.

Medical Billing & Coding Education Options

While the nature of medical billing and coding itself depends on precision, the ways to learn it are more flexible. Some students opt to acquire their skills through an on-site program offered at a community college; others prefer studying online at their own pace. After schooling is complete, graduates can gain certification to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.

Community colleges

Medical billing and coding programs usually last two semesters for full-time students. Classes cover computer basics, medical office terminology, coding classes, and include an internship for students to gain practical experience. The amount of credits needed to graduate varies according to the program; between 11 and 19 credits is standard. The cost of classes can be nominal—less than $1,000—but students should be prepared that course materials may cost more than tuition. Students who live near a college with a medical billing and coding education program, and who want to work in their community, would get the added benefit of having access to local experts within an easy commute.

Online colleges

Students taking online medical billing and coding courses can complete a program in ten months for under $800. Program participants must have a computer and Internet access, and may need to purchase other electronic course materials. In addition to instruction from faculty members, classes can include videos, virtual labs and simulated work experiences. Online education programs also prepare students to take coding certification exams.

Certifying Bodies

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers several certifications in coding and billing specialties, including the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) designation. This certification is widely recognized in physician’s office settings, and proves a specialist’s knowledge and experience with medical coding. Other certifications specialize in areas such as in-patient and out-patient coding procedures, and risk adjustment.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) likewise offers various credentials that demonstrate coding proficiency. The Certified Coding Associate (CCA) designation is awarded to individuals qualified to work across settings, including hospitals and private practices, while other certifications are offered to those who specialize in one setting.[Design: side-by-side boxes]

MOOCs, Resources & More

Before investing time and money in a medical billing and coding certificate or degree, it’s worth exploring the basics online, through articles, videos or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These introduce students to what’s involved with medical billing and coding jobs, and give them a firm foundation in the subject material before starting a formal educational program. This approach requires much less of a time commitment, and is also cheaper—some MOOC lessons are even free! Below is a list of MOOCs and other resources that can ease a potential student into the field of medical billing and coding.

MOOCs

Typically lasting from several weeks to a couple of months, many MOOCs are comprehensive lectures or courses taught by professors from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and Georgetown. Here are examples of available MOOCs relevant to medical billing and coding or related subjects:

  • Anatomy & Physiology

    Carnegie Mellon University offers a course on the human body that covers topics such as structure and functions, homeostasis, and the organization and integration of bodily systems.

  • Becoming a Resilient Person – The Science of Stress Management

    Optimistic thought and relaxation strategies are among the many techniques effective in reducing stress and illness. This Edx course from the University of Washington explains how stress exacerbates many health problems.

  • Behavioral Medicine: A Key to Better Health

    Behavioral medicine is the science of healing through changing habits. Students taking this free EdX course will learn basic behavioral medicine concepts and explore the benefits to healthy lifestyle changes.

  • Fundamentals of Clinical Trials

    For hundreds of years the medical industry has tested and tried treatments for illnesses, with results ranging from disappointing to revolutionary. Through this free EdX course from Harvard, students learn the ethics and methods of clinical trials, and analyze the results of these essential medical experiments.

  • Health in Numbers: Quantitative Methods in Clinical & Public Health Research

    Medical professionals often use clinical and public health research in modern illness treatment. Through this Harvard EdX course, students learn to evaluate medicine and health improvement outcomes, as well as associations between these outcomes.

  • Healthcare Information Technology Foundations

    As an overview of health care, health information technology, and health information systems, this course from Carnegie Mellon University covers details of the medical office environment. Students learn about IT applications in the healthcare industry and the roles of medical professionals, examining topics ranging from governmental regulations to medical record-keeping.

  • The Human Body as a Machine

    A machine is more than just the sum of its parts, and so is the human body. This course from Open2Study addresses how body systems work together, interact with each other, and coordinate their processes, from the cellular level up.

  • Innovating in Health Care

    Healthcare and the medical industry often conflict with private and public companies over quality, access, and cost. This free, nine-week EdX course from Harvard takes a look at how to improve healthcare structure, policy, technology, financing, and more.

  • An Introduction to Global Health

    Through lecture, self-study and exercises, students in this free EdX course learn about global health challenges and how different global health organizations approach them.

  • Positive Behavior Support for Young Children

    Many medical office personnel have trouble working with young children and infants. This EdX course from the University of Washington teaches supportive techniques for physical, social and emotional development in children.

  • Principles of Human Disease

    Emphasizing the cellular and molecular basis of human disease, this course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology addresses modern understanding of disease and how the healthcare industry approaches illnesses ranging from genetic disorders to cancer.

  • Regenerative Medicine: from Bench to Bedside

    Students taking this Massachusetts Institute of Technology course learn about the theory and practice of healing patients with degenerative diseases.

  • Take Your Medicine – The Impact of Drug Development

    As an introduction to pharmacology, this EdX course from the University of Texas looks at how drugs and medications have influenced modern illnesses and modern society.

  • Understanding HIPAA for the Medical Office

    This comprehensive video from Udemy explains HIPPA and how it was designed to reform the healthcare industry by protecting patient information.

  • United States Health Policy

    Most Americans do not fully understand the shifting landscape of medical insurance and how it is connected to the government. This free Harvard EdX course prepares students to educate patients and other laypersons about the current state of medical insurance.

  • The US Healthcare Industry: Changes and Opportunities

    The healthcare industry is constantly changing. This half-hour course from Udemy looks into the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the pressure to lower medical industry costs.

Other Resources

Aside from online degree and certificate programs and MOOCs, there are a number of other resources for medical billing and coding education, including recorded lectures or articles. Be sure to check out these other educational materials: