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Demand is High: Find a Medical Billing and Coding School Online or in Vermont to Get Started

Sometimes the demand for medical coders is so high companies need to "grow their own" – that is, select individuals who seem to have what it takes to be successful and then provide the training. It happened recently in Vermont. Precyse Health Information Management partnered with Vermont HITECH to train medical coders (https://vtdigger.org/2015/12/20/precyse-partners-with-vermont-hitec-to-build-a-work-at-home-medical-coding-workforce/).

Not everyone, of course, will land an opportunity quite like this. There are still plenty of opportunities to train, though -- and plenty of opportunities to find work in the field. Healthcare – wherever it is delivered – needs to be coded. As the healthcare industry grows, so does coding.

Select a Vermont Medical Billing and Coding Topic:

Vermont Medical Billing and Coding Careers

Medical billers and coders need some information about local payers. However, the profession is much the same around the nation. Vermont students can train in Vermont or train through online medical billing and coding schools located in other states. Ultimately, successful workers can work in Vermont or online. It typically is necessary to get some experience in the ‘real world’. One can use education and professional certification to position themselves well.

Prospective billing and coding professionals will do well to consider career goals at the onset. Inpatient coding is more demanding than most settings and a little harder to break into.

Professional certification through third parties has become the norm across settings. There are multiple organizations granting certificates, but the leaders are the AAPC (formerly the Academy of Professional Coders) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Medical coding can help those with training in other healthcare fields launch new careers. The Community College of Vermont notes that medical coding certificates can be a good complement for education in medical assisting (among other fields).

Medical Coding Education Options

Students have many options. They may complete short certificate programs or accredited health information degree programs. Programs are available through colleges, proprietary schools, and professional associations.

Programs frequently count among their goals preparation for particular certification examinations. An experienced medical coder, though, will have many credentialing options.

Minimum expected content includes anatomy and physiology (or human biology), medical terminology, and basic coding of diagnoses and procedures. These are the courses that are recommended by AHIMA for the Certified Coding Associate, an entry-level certification. Employers around the nation frequently reference them in job ads. Many programs include multiple coding courses of increasing complexity. Candidates who wish to test for Certified Coding Specialist (a higher-level AHIMA credential) at the onset of their careers are required to have intermediate/ advanced medical coding coursework. Reimbursement methodology is another expectation, as is pathophysiology and pharmacology.

Practicum and/or internship can be helpful for building a career. Some programs include online coding practicums. Some place students into actual healthcare settings.

Some programs include career readiness or general support courses like composition and workplace communication. Computer applications is a frequent offering.

Some medical billing and coding schools administer examinations as part of the admission process. Vermont HITEC, for example, utilizes the Walden Personnel Testing & Consulting Call Center Skills Test and Customer Service Skills Test.

Professional coders can continue to advance their careers through credit or noncredit coursework. Some professionals enroll in online programs to learn new types of coding (for example, risk adjustment coding). Some enroll in online practicums to practice coding in new specialty areas.

AAPC Certification

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) is among the industry’s best-known and most respected credentials. Full professional status is granted to professionals who meet experience requirements and pass a lengthy examination; associate status (CPC-A) is granted to those who pass the examination but lack professional experience.

The CPC examination costs $380 ($300 for AAPC students). Prospective candidates must become members of the organization. Examinations may be hosted by chapters around the nation. The Bennington, Burlington, Newport, and Rutland AAPC chapters all host examinations.

The AAPC offers similar certifications for medical coders who work in outpatient or payer settings. Professionals with primary responsibility for billing may wish to pursue the Certified Professional Biller, or CPB. The organization also has a number of expert-level certifications, including inpatient certifications and specialty medical coding certifications. Some professionals find it advantageous to hold multiple credentials.

AHIMA Certification

The AHIMA Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) is another highly respected certification. It is geared toward hospital inpatient and outpatient coding. A person can become a CCS without experience but it means meeting educational standards as well as passing a very difficult examination.

The Certified Coding Associate (CCA) assesses competency at a more basic level. It is also well-respected on a national level but will not open as many doors as the higher credentials.

A prospective CCA will apply to AHIMA and provide documentation of having met standards at the high school level. The fee is $199 for AHIMA members, $299 for non-members. Individuals wishing to test at the CCS level will document qualifications and pay a fee of $299 or $399, depending on membership status.

Approved AHIMA candidates self-schedule their examinations through Pearson VUE. There is a Pearson Vue Professional Center in South Burlington. Some test takers may find the Albany, New York or Concord, New Hampshire site more convenient. Prospective examinees are advised to contact the desired Pearson VUE site to confirm that it offers the particular AHIMA examination sought.

Additional Resources

The Vermont Health Information Management Association is the state AHIMA chapter (http://www.vhima.org/). There are two regional associations: Southwest (SWVHIMA) and Tidewater (THIMA).

Vermont boasts four local AAPC chapters (https://www.aapc.com/localchapters/list-all-local-chapter.aspx). Local meetings can provide education as well as networking opportunity. The following are among the topics that local chapters selected for presentation in 2017:

  • Inpatient Redesign
  • Risk Adjustment/Medicaid Provider Appeals
  • How to Survive an Audit
  • Creating Your Professional Portfolio