How Has Medical Coding/Billing Changed Over the Years?

February 25, 2019


Medical billing and coding specialists are integral to the functioning of healthcare facilities. They work closely with patients, physicians, and insurance companies to keep costs at healthcare institutions at a minimum. While medical coding and billing specialists have two separate functions, it’s not unheard of for some to perform both sets of tasks.

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Through the 1980s, it was commonplace for medical coding and billing specialists to handwrite patient documents or use typewriters to process insurance claims. Billing and coding was time-consuming as most patient files that contained sensitive information such as test results and doctor notes were not digitized and kept in large folders.

In the digital era, most medical providers use electronic medical records to keep track of patients, shedding their previous reliance on paper.

The medical billing and coding profession continues to grow and change. The switch from the ICD-9 to the ICD-10 coding system made waves in the medical coding and billing fields.

Rapid technological growth translates into an expansion of the field. Due to an increased demand for specialists, medical billing and coding is one of the better-paying careers in allied healthcare, making it appealing for anyone looking to kickstart an entry-level job in the healthcare field.

If you’re interested in learning how to become a medical billing and coding specialist, click here to find out everything you’ll need to know.

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With the rapid evolution of technology in healthcare, medical records and claims management has become easier and faster than ever. While the introduction of digital medical records has helped the efficiency of the medical coding and billing sector, it has also increased the need for highly specialized professionals over the coming years.

Medical billing and coding programs offer the education and training needed to meet these new demands in the allied healthcare industry. From working in a high-demand field to workplace flexibility (like working from home), here’s some need-to-know information about the surprising field of medical billing and coding.

Differences Between Medical Billing and Coding

Medical coders scan medical documents to discover which procedures or surgeries a patient had, turning this information into codes. These codes are then used by insurance companies for patient authorization, payment, and/or reimbursement. Medical billers, on the other hand, look over and submit claims made by the patient through medical billing software by using the codes from the medical coders.

Today, accredited medical billing and coding schools offer certificate programs for both billing and coding and train their students interested in starting a career in allied healthcare.

Medical Billing and Coding Equipment in the Past

Medical coding was done through a chargemaster (or superbill), and medical coders would send printed copies of claims to insurance companies via mail or fax. This paper-based system led to several problems and inefficiencies, like incorrectly billing patients or miscommunication between healthcare institutions and insurance companies.

The New Era in Medical Billing and Coding Tools

Whereas healthcare facilities would fax papers to providers in the past, documents can now be sent through secure computer networks, easing the process of transferring patient information between facilities, providers, and insurance companies. Students who gain a medical billing education are required to be well-versed in these computer systems.

Additionally, much of the coding work is now done through computer software programs. These programs – which are a massive improvement on previous bulky coding manuals – allow coders to accurately and efficiently search for (and select) specific terms in a digital database.

One of the most significant benefits of the digitization of patient records is the ability to work remotely. In recent years, there has been an increase in medical billing and coding jobs that can be done from home.

Shift in Medical Coding Programs

The ICD-10 called for an increase in the number of codes – from approximately 17,000 to nearly 150,000 – to include more conditions, diseases, and injuries. Before, several codes were labeled as "other" and "non-specified," leading to denials of far too many insurance claims. These clarifications have helped insurance companies navigate the reimbursement process far more easily.

While the ICD-10 coding system has streamlined communication with insurance companies, the requirements to become a medical coder are more stringent. This makes quality education more important than ever. Students wishing to complete a medical coding training program must have a more thorough understanding of both anatomy and organ systems.

Bright Job Outlook for Medical Billers and Coders

Salaries for medical billing and coding, for instance, average just under $40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Top earners in the field command a salary as high as $60,000.

The BLS also estimates that the medical billing and coding field will expand by 13% between 2016 and 2026, which is higher than the national employment average growth rate.

Kickstart Your Career in Medical Billing and Coding Today!