Medical Coding and Billing in Virginia
The duties of a medical billing and coding specialist in Virginia are many and varied. Responsibilities can include coding diagnoses and procedures, conducting audits, establishing compliance procedures, and interpreting data for the sake of identifying healthcare-related trends.
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Medical billing specialists may also process claims, interpret Medicaid contracts, track electronic claims reimbursements, and follow through on incomplete paperwork. In smaller offices, medical billing and coding duties are often combined with other office duties. Large hospitals and medical centers, on the other hand, often employ specialists in narrow but demanding roles. Indeed, there are specialty certifications available in a number of areas, like cardiology, home care, and pediatrics as well as compliance.
The field can also be a good second career for those with backgrounds as LPNs or other healthcare professionals. A recent posting at John Randolph Medical Center for an E & R coder gave preference to candidates with paramedic training.
To get started you will need to first complete a formal education. Find either a medical billing and coding program, health informatics or a health information technology program in Virginia. Depending on your current situation, there are online or campus based colleges and universities to choose from.
Medical Billing and Coding Training in Virginia
Courses in medical billing and coding are available in a variety of formats and scheduling options. The trade is well suited to online study as it doesn’t involve clinical practice. Typical courses of study include anatomy and pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical nomenclature, HCD and CPT coding methodologies, reimbursement issues, and medical and legal issues.
Programs also typically prepare students to sit for board examinations. Virginia’s healthcare providers and other employers often ask credentialing through AHIMA or AAPC. AHIMA credentials indicate levels of proficiency in different settings. The CCA (Certified Coding Associate) certification exam is often regarded as the easiest, but is less desirable to employers. Some employers like employees to have both RHIT or RHIA and CCS or CPC credentials. RHIT and RHIA are general health information technology certifications that are available only to candidates who have completed accredited degree programs.
The designations Coder I and Coder II, used in job postings, can be a clue about the level of training and experience necessary to perform job functions. A recent job posting for Coder I in Virginia required only completion of basic coursework. A Coder II position in Virginia specified three years of field experience in addition to CSS, RHIT, or RHIA certification (all of which require skills beyond the entry level).
It is possible to apply courses in a medical billing and coding certificate program toward a degree program. Partnerships, or articulations, between schools also allow students to transfer credits or degrees toward a higher level program.
Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job Outlook in Virginia
Externships can be a valuable part of the program. It is good to think of them as interviews as well as learning opportunities. A representative of Heald College has noted that they sometimes turn into permanent work.
Wages are quite variable, depending on a person’s duties and the job setting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has compiled data for health information workers in different regions of the state. Those in the greater DC metropolitan area take home by far the highest wages; this area, which encompasses the most urban areas of several states, reports a salary of $41,140. The capitol city of Richmond, though, reports only $32,820. Charlottesville is listed at $36,630 and Roanoke at $34,130. Danville is the lowest in the state at $25,760 with the southwestern nonmetropolitan region reporting a slightly higher $26,470.
Although the more rural areas generally have lower salaries, they should not be discounted. These areas often need trained coders more and may be a good place to break into the market as well as do some good. A CPC coding specialist, one of only a few certified coders in the Martinsville area, has noted that certification has been useful in finding errors and increasing office revenue.
Additional employers of medical billing and coding services include University of Virginia Health System based in Charlottesville, Saint Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Lynchburg General Hospital and Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church. These are also some of the largest employers in Virginia.
Medical assistant programs in Virginia are popular allied health career entry pathways since they have a shorter training period. You may want to take a look at them as well.