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Medical Coding and Billing in Pennsylvania

What is a day on the job like for a medical billing and coding specialist? It may be very different for one who works at Fox Chase Cancer Centre than one who is employed by a physician in a small family practice. The American Association of Professional Coders undertook the task, in 2008, of describing what a day at the office was like for approximately 12,000 medical coding professionals. They noted that at some settings, workers had very varied days, handling coding tasks, other office tasks, and even some clinical ones. At other settings, though, they might spend most of their day coding medical records in some specialized branch of medicine.

Respondents’ work setting varied in another important way. Some did remote medical coding. After several years experience in the field, there often are opportunities to work from home. In many cases, people transition into telecommuting positions with employers who know them and trust their work. Some staffing agencies, though, also hire people to code or bill from home. Those professionals may continue to work at a hourly wage, or their pay may depend on productivity.

How to get started in the medical billing or medical coding profession? Most employers favor a formal education such as a medical billing and coding program, health information technology program (HIT), health information management (HIM) program or a health informatics program. These programs are also designed to help prepare graduates for taking the various certification exams.

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Medical Billing and Coding Training in Pennsylvania

A career in medical billing and coding begins with a sound educational foundation. One thing to consider, when choosing a program, is career path. Medical billing and coding can be pursued on its own, in a certificate or associate’s program, or as part of a program in health information management. If your school has both tracks, it is sometimes possible to apply courses in medical billing and coding toward a health information program.

Another thing to consider is accreditation and what exams you will be able to sit for. Pennsylvania employers often specify that candidates have CCS, RHIT, RHIA, or CPC certifications. Sometimes they even specify that they have an RHIT or RHIA (health information) certification as well as one of the other certifications that is more specifically focused on coding.

Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job Outlook in Pennsylvania

Hospitals and physicians’ offices are, not surprisingly, two of the biggest employers of medical billing and coding specialists in PA. The size of the practice effects more than just job duties. In general, coders employed at ambulatory settings make less than those who do inpatient coding. Part of this comes down to the size of the practice. The 2010 AAPC Salary Survey found that salary was strongly correlated with number of practitioners; certified coding specialists who worked for solo practitioners averaged $40,430 nationwide while those at large practices averaged $45,480. Those who worked in outpatient hospital facilities made marginally less than this, but inpatient coders made well over $2,000 more. This is not just a matter of the available budget; inpatient coding is generally regarded as more complex -- this can be a difficult market to crack, but it‘s one to aspire to.

Typical facilities where medical billing and coding specialists are employed include some of the largest employers in Pennsylvania. These are Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Saint Luke's Hospitals with locations in Riverside, Allentown, Bethlehem, Coaldale and Quakertown and Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

New graduates won’t necessarily compete for the same positions as those who are more experienced in the field. An entry level position may be as a customer service representative or billing clerk; some graduates manage the medical front desk or work in charge entry. A position in Monroeville for billing and charge entry, posted in early 2011, is a possible entry level position. The posting asks either one to three years of experience or completion of formal education in medical billing and coding. This particular position pays $20,000 to $28,000 a year. It does get better. The AAPC Salary Survey reports a statewide average of $43,944 in Pennsylvania.

Many Pennsylvania employers do rely on staffing agencies like Pathway or Office Team. How can a billing or coding specialist stand apart from the crowd of applicants? A healthcare staffer at Office Team shares some tips. Experience is valued; so are interpersonal skills and current knowledge. As the coding profession prepares to transition from the ICD-9-CM system to the ICD-10-CM one, knowledge of this system will become valuable.

People researching the medical billing and coding programs in PA also looked into the Medical Assistant programs in Pennsylvania since they are both positive growth fields and entry-level health care pathways in PA.

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