Due to the ever-increasing need in the U.S. for broader access to better healthcare, the career outlook for medical billing and coding technicians is expected to grow at a rate of 16% through the year 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Online medical billing and coding programs prepare students for exciting careers in the growing field of healthcare, where medicine, management, and technology come together. Medical coding and billing professionals are essential to the organization and management of health information and data for the purpose of billing patients and securing reimbursement from insurance providers.
Healthcare professionals, uniquely trained in one of only a few recession-proof fields, play a crucial role in the workforce today by caring for an aging yet longer-living population. Between 2010 and 2050, the number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million to nearly 1.5 billion around the world. In addition, more than 60% of the Baby Boomer generation is expected to have more than one chronic medical condition by the year 2030. All while national health spending continues its meteoric rise of 5.6% per year through 2025. Some estimates state it may eventually make up more than 19% of the entire country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Now is a great time to explore your options. Read on to learn more about our top picks for the best online medical billing and coding programs for 2017:
Other Online Medical Billing and Coding Programs
This is one of the top online medical billing coding programs in the nation. The program, which can be taken traditionally or fully online, requires 40-60 hours of professional practice experience, and upon completing it students will be fully ready to take the registered health Information technician (RHIT) exam offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). While attending, you’ll participate in the American Health Information Management Association’s Virtual Lab, using cutting edge software to explore coding information for reimbursement and research, standards and regulations regarding health information, and managing medical records and health care information.
Cowley College has a flexible program that allows students to learn at home on their own schedule. Both a vocational certificate and a AAS degree are available. The program’s instructor has been working in the field for three decades, and is available upon completion to aid in recommending employment opportunities for graduates of the program. Kansas residents are encouraged to apply for the limited scholarships open to full-time students in the Allied Health field. Those interested in continuing their education to the bachelor’s level will be pleased to know all credits from Cowley transfer over to the appropriate program at Southwestern College.
Comprising 42 credit hours, Northwest Technical College offers an AAS degree in medical coding that instructs students in courses covering anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, U.S. health care systems, and medical billing and insurance. New students may want to explore the possibility of a medical coding grant. The Coding the Path from Poverty to Hope grant offers financial assistance for the purchase of a laptop and books, as well as expenses like internet, gas, and even childcare—perfect for the parent looking for a better environment for their children through a more stable job.
The medical coding specialist program at Northland Community and Technical College is a 60-hour course that will earn you an AAS—perfect for a job in medical coding. The program is available on-campus or online, though the schedule of courses varies somewhat depending on the manner in which you participate in the program. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, students will explore everything from basic computer technology to cultural diversity in this course of study.
If constant access and communication is what you’re looking for as you pursue a degree in medical coding, Community Care College is the place for you. Instructors are always available for guidance via phone, email, text, chat, Skype and in person. Over the course of study in the 100% online program, students will master coding in the ICD-10, the standard set by the World Health Organization. The program can be completed in as little as 11 months.
At Central Maine Community College, you can earn both your AAS and a Certificate in Medical Coding and Electronic Health Records. The former requires a minimum of 62 credit hours, the latter 32 credit hours. Graduates of this program have the requirements necessary to sit for the certification examination, and, upon successful completion of the exam, the individual is eligible to become a Certified Professional Coder. Students can go through the program completely online. The program is a well-rounded set of courses offering business math, intro to psychology, and health information technology.
After attending the 64-credit-hour AAS program at Highland Community College, students will be prepared to sit for the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) exam administered by AHIMA. The program generally takes two years to complete as a full-time student, and the entire course is offered online for the busy scholar looking to enter the lucrative field of medical coding. The courses offered delve deep into in the industry, exploring everything from ethics to the classification of diseases.
Students entering the medical coding program at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical will be well-prepared as they learn their trade using real hospital documents in their training. Offered online, in person, or a combination of the two, students will have access to professors with decades of experience in the field. The campus’ long associations with local hospitals and other medical industries may be especially beneficial to Minnesota residents, making transitioning from student to employee a snap after graduation.
It takes 60 credit hours to complete the AAS program at Central Texas College, but every one of the credits is worth it. Students will complete a solid range of courses designed to prepare them for a medical coding career, including everything from business English to basic pathophysiology, among other topics.
Cosumnes River College offers a degree path in health information technologies that will launch you into one of the fastest growing occupations in America. Their online program can take you through an AAS degree or a health information coding specialist certificate. Courses include health statistics, computerized health information systems, and continuous quality improvement.
Columbus State Community College can help you get a medical coding certificate or an AAS. The certificate program is offered as either a fully-online course or as a blend of traditional and internet coursework, though occasional attendance on campus or through proctors (for testing) is also required. For the medical coding certificate, principles in ICD-10-CM/PCS, CPT coding, and third-party reimbursement will be emphasized. Students enrolled in the medical coding certificate program are also required to attend professional practice experiences (PPE) throughout the semester at assigned healthcare facilities.
If you want to complete your degree as soon as possible and get started in a medical coding career early, consider the program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The university’s 13-credit-hour course will net you a Medical Coding Occupational Endorsement, accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The program accepts applicants as young as 16-years-old, giving dedicated young people a leg up on a very safe and stable career. Perhaps best of all, the entire program costs just $3,193.
Comprising 18 credit hours and a little over a year of study, Drexel offers a certificate in medical billing and coding. This online certificate program is designed for those who want to begin medical billing, coding, and medical record auditing careers or prepare for certification exams in these areas. Students will learn the principles of medical billing and coding related to the industry’s main coding manuals: CPT, ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, and HCPCS. The curriculum covers principles of medical billing and coding for inpatient and outpatient facilities.
It’s one of the longer medical coding certificate programs, but this option offered by Lanier Technical College dhttps://www.laniertech.edu/AcademicPrograms/flyer.aspx?id=102oes offer a great path into the industry. Students typically spend three semesters and 29 credit hours obtaining their certificate. Students can start as young as 16-years-old with a GED or high school diploma, and the program is available completely online.
Offered on campus or online, students who complete the medical coding specialist program will be well-prepared to sit for various national certification exams through the NHA, as well as some additional national certification examinations through AHIMA or the American Academy of Professional Coders, once they have completed some professional experience along with all necessary coursework. An introduction to basic computing class is required for admission. An AAS degree path will also require general education courses from three goal areas, while AS degrees require general education from six goal areas of MN Transfer Curriculum. Make sure you speak with a college advisor to help set the best path for you.
This is one of the more robust programs, but worth it. A Certificate of Applied Science in Medical Coding can be obtained with 31 credit hours of campus instruction, or 32 credit hours of mixed online and face-to-face (hybrid) instruction. Courses cover medical terminology, foundations of human biology, and a capstone project. An interview with a faculty advisor is recommended before deciding which path works best for you.
The healthcare coding specialist certification program at Hutchinson Community College comprises 45 credit hours. Some of the more notable courses that students will tackle include microcomputer applications, pathophysiology, and a coding lab. Generally, three semesters are required to complete the full sequence of courses.
Dakota State University is a great stepping stone toward a long-term career in medical coding. The certificate program paves the way for an associate or bachelor’s degree in the health information technologies, making it a fantastic place to set down roots for growth in the industry. Many relevant courses will transfer directly into these programs—saving you time and money if you decide to continue your studies. The certification program will prepare graduates for the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) certified coding associate exam. You may then take additional exams to become a Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) or Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P).
You can earn multiple medical coding and billing qualifications at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. This institution’s top-notch programs are ideal for entering the industry. An associate degree will require some 60 credit hours to obtain, while various certifications and technical endorsements will be slightly less intensive. All in all, the programs offer a wide variety of paths, depending on your needs and chosen manner of expanding your career prospects.
Weber State University’s healthcare coding certificate program comprises four semesters. Over the course of the program students will receive the same education they would get in a classroom, online. Courses include introduction to pharmacology, diagnosis coding, and medical terminology. Students are required to complete a background check, drug screen, and proof of immunizations before taking PPE courses (HIM 2861 and 2862) and completing an internship (HAS 4860).
The Certificate in Medical Coding at Charter Oak State College is designed for students who are interested in the profession of medical coding and wish to earn a medical coding credential from AHIMA or the AAPC. The program is considered mid-range in terms of length, requiring just 21 credit hours, and lays the groundwork for a solid education and successful career in the industry.
Comprising just two semesters, the Certificate of Achievement in Professional Medical Coding and Billing at Great Basin College is a brilliant deal. GBC is an academic partner with Career Step, located in Springville, Utah, delivering all MCOD courses online and making pursuing your certificate through the internet a snap. The program includes some courses that can be bypassed with a certificate of achievement; be sure to inquire about them if you’ve had any previous educational experience and may have potentially transferable credits.
The medical coding and billing specialist program at Gogebic Community College leads to a certificate and generally takes two years to complete. Students in online classes need only a computer system, internet access, word processing program, and email accessibility as these are the tools necessary to be successful in an online course. Courses include disease process and pharmacology, medical office procedures, and fundamentals of computer applications. The program comprises 42 credit hours.
Barton offers a certificate in medical coding comprising 44 credit hours and roughly three semesters of study. The program is designed to impart expertise in ICD-9, CPT, and HCPCS coding systems. In addition to coding procedures, the curriculum includes medical and professional courses for employment in a professional setting.
This medical coding undergraduate certificate program prepares students for challenging coding positions in hospitals, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, insurance companies, and other settings in which diagnostic and procedural data are coded for reimbursement purposes. This certificate program is designed to be completed fully online, and most credits in the certificate program are applicable to the Associate of Science in Health Information Technology.
Graduates of the medical coding program at Ogeechee are qualified to sit for certification examinations through the American Health Information Management Association. Exams include the CCA (Certified Coding Associate), CCS (Certified Coding Specialist), and the CCS-P (Certified Coding Specialist, Physician-based). Applicants must be at least 17-years-old, however, unlike most other programs, are not required to have a degree in order to get started. They must simply meet minimum score requirements on the ACT ands SAT. The total cost of the program is $4,221, although this is subject to change.
Sinclair Community College offers a certificate in medical coding, comprising 23 credit hours. Through this program, students will develop skills to accurately determine diagnostic and procedural code number assignments that impact medical reimbursement. Skill sets include application of ICD-10-CM, CPT, and HCPCS coding systems, as well as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology and disease processes, processing insurance claims, and reimbursement practices.
Move into the medical industry of the 21st century with a Bible-based program at Presentation College. Certificate courses are available completely online and are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Certification in medical coding can be obtained through 35 credit hours of study from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Courses include international classification of diseases, current procedural terminology, and electives, and are designed to help students successfully acclimate to the college experience. It’s an ideal program for students looking to start slow and enjoy a long and satisfying career.
Education Needed for a Medical Billing and Coding Career
A career in medical coding and billing requires an education beyond high school; candidates earn at least a certificate, and often an associate’s degree, in this major. Certificates, degrees, and individual online medical billing and coding courses are now available at schools nationwide. Students interested in non-clinical roles in healthcare are ideal candidates for studying medical billing and coding online; graduates are eligible to become health information technicians, medical records managers, physicians’ office administrators, and more, earning an average annual salary of $37,110. Those with advanced certification in a particular area of electronic health records (EHR) management should find even greater opportunities available to them as records systems become increasingly digitized. The American Medical Association is just one example of a national institution aware of the growing necessity for medical billing and coding professionals across the country, offering a variety of workshops, meetings, and educational resources to advance continuing education in the field.
What is Medical Billing and Coding?
Medical billing and coding is a crucial element of the healthcare process in America today. For every diagnosis given, treatment prescribed, or service performed by a healthcare professional, there is a corresponding code used for billing purposes. Where communication between healthcare providers and insurers is its own language, medical billing and coding professionals serve as its translators. Each of the services described by a particular numeric or alphanumeric code is also documented in a certain order on that patient’s bill, such as one that signifies a pre-existing condition. Medical billing and coding professionals are responsible for properly coding all services rendered by the physician and preparing and processing claims for payment to both the insurance company and the patient.
What is the difference between medical billing and medical coding?
Both processes are of equal importance, and rely on the other to complete the medical claims and billing process as we know it. Medical coding comes first, and is the process of assigning an established code to each service provided by the physician and inputting the codes into a form or digitized system. Medical billing is the second part of the process, in which a medical biller uses the information from the coder to create a claim, or bill, for services rendered. The bill is first sent to the insurance company, which will evaluate how much it is responsible for paying and return to the biller, who then charges the patient for their part of the payment due.
Why is medical billing and coding important?
As the universal language among healthcare providers, insurance companies, government agencies, and other health organizations, the process of medical billing and coding is part-and-parcel to healthcare today. With most healthcare practices adopting or in the process of transitioning to fully digitized electronic health records (EHR) systems, medical billing and coding professionals with knowledge of the latest software and field updates are essential to the industry. Learning medical billing and coding online can not only help students to adapt to new EHR technology but also stay ahead of the curve when it comes to annual ICD code updates and other frequent diagnostic changes within the field.
Finding the Right Medical Billing and Coding Program
While many schools offer students the opportunity to master medical billing and coding online, all programs are not created equal. Diversity among course topics is expected, even welcome, as one of the perks of attending a medical billing and coding school online, however there are a few signs to look for when considering the best program for you. As always, make sure the program is accredited by a reputable agency; specialized accreditation in this field, like from the Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) or the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), is especially desirable. Any comprehensive medical billing and coding program should also include multiple courses in information technology and/or computer systems, as this is a major component of this occupation.
Additionally, while not all employers require certification in addition to an associate’s degree, many prefer it. It can only benefit your experience to choose a program that provides training and preparation for certification exams given by the the AAPC or the American Health Information Management Association, for example.
Common Medical Coding and Billing Terms
- ICD – International Classification of Diseases, a type of code.
- CPT – Current Procedural Terminology as determined by the American Medical Association.
- HCPCS – The Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, often pronounced “hick picks” according to its acronym.
- CM – Clinical Modification; listed as “CM” at the end of a line of updated code or used to indicate a revision to the ICD, such as in the latest tenth revision (ICD-10-CM) in 2016.
- CMS – Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- NCHS – National Center for Health Statistics.
- WHO – World Health Organization.
- E-codes – Used to indicate an injury, poisoning, or adverse effect due to an external cause, such as a bad reaction to a drug.
- V-codes – Describes a patient visit for a reason other than disease or injury, such as a person with a live-born infant or unspecified risk due to family history.
- Category – When referencing medical billing and coding, there are three categories within the CPT code set: Category I (the largest and most commonly used) describes medical procedures, technologies, and services; Category II is used for performance management and additional data; Category III houses the codes for emerging and experimental medical procedures and services.
- E/M – Evaluation and Management; code used for varying types of physician-patient encounters.
- Modifier – Used to alter or describe a compound medical service or supply.
- Modifier-exempt – A code for a single, straightforward service that is not eligible for an “add-on” or extension descriptor.
- Pathology – The science of disease, including its causes and effects.
- Subcategory – In ICD codes, the digit after the decimal point that describes the nature of the illness or injury, and possibly its location or area of manifestation.
- Subclassification – An extension of the subcategory descriptor, further describing the manifestation, severity, or location of an injury or disease.
- Technical component – describes only the technical aspect of a medical procedure.
- Z-codes – Similar to v-codes; indicate a reason not due to immediate illness or injury for a patient to visit a healthcare professional.
*The schools listed above are sponsored. Sponsored school listings are distinct paid advertisements and are clearly marked with a “SPONSORED” or “FEATURED” tag to distinguish them from editorially ranked schools. Learn more about how rank schools or contact us with questions.
To determine the best online Medical Coding and Billing programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 4 best online Medical Coding and Billing programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.