Hospitals and large medical campuses are one of the most significant employers of medical billing and coding professionals in the nation. As healthcare coverage expands and the baby boomer population grows older, the outlook for billing and coding professionals in the hospital setting is good. Hospital care is usually classified into two groups: inpatient and outpatient.
Inpatient care refers to the care a patient receives during each day of his or her stay in a hospital. Typically patients are only hospitalized if they have a serious health condition, and in turn a hospital stay usually generates a significant amount of billing and coding work. Outpatient care refers to medical services provided to clients who are only making a temporary visit to a hospital. Outpatient care is more similar to that provided at a physician’s office, and is usually appointment-based. Billing and coding professionals who work in an outpatient facility will typically deal with individual healthcare services performed, as opposed to their inpatient counterparts who bill and code for multiple days and many healthcare services.
Medical Billing and Coding Careers in Hospitals – What to Expect
Inpatient billing and coding professionals will review doctor notes and patient charts for each day of a patient’s hospital stay. Many healthcare services may be performed over a single day’s period, including everything from IV drips to physical therapy. It is the billing and coding professional’s responsibility to ensure the most accurate medical code is assigned for every service performed. Inpatient coders must be attentive to details and be versatile in understanding different styles of notation.
Outpatient billing and coding professionals will typically deal with work generated by multiple patients every day. They will be generating codes and bills based on appointments for specific healthcare services, and must ensure the accuracy of these codes which are in part based on the context of a patient’s previous healthcare history. This means the billing and coding professional will need to be aware not only of the specific services performed but also the patient’s overall healthcare record.
Preparing for Hospital Billing and Coding Careers
Because many of the services performed as an inpatient billing and coding professional are unique to this area of the healthcare system, many educational programs offer specific certifications specifically for inpatient coding. This type of certification can also be valuable for outpatient coders, who often encounter patient records whose medical history includes significant inpatient services. Other programs offer certification and education that pertains to the entire realm of hospital billing and coding, both for inpatient and outpatient services.
Both the inpatient and outpatient fields are considered to be more advanced in the world of medical billing and coding professionals for two main reasons. First and especially applicable to inpatient billing and coding: the range of different possible codes. Hospitals provide a wide variety of different healthcare services, and the billing and coding professionals who handle these must be well versed across the entire spectrum.
The second reason billing and coding careers in the hospital setting are considered to be more advanced is due to the volume of patients. Hospitals tend to be busier than most other healthcare service providers, and therefore billing and coding professionals should be accustomed to working at an efficient pace.
Relevant education and experience can be highly advantageous for candidates who are applying for medical billing and coding jobs in a hospital setting.