Medical Billing Vs Medical Coding: Main Differences

Medical billing and coding are two important aspects of the medical industry. Though they are related, the two jobs have some key differences. Here, we will explore those differences and explain why both positions are important to the overall functioning of a healthcare organization. These details will be helpful if you are considering pursuing a medical billing or coding career.

What Is Medical Billing?

Medical billing, also referred to as medical claims processing is the administrative process of proposing and following up on lawsuits with health insurance companies. This includes ensuring that all necessary patient information is included in each claim, tracking the status of those claims, and recording payments made by patients or other payers.

Medical billers are essential for ensuring that providers and facilities are properly reimbursed for their services and that patients receive timely payment.

Types Of Medical Bills

As medical billing is fairly complex, multiple bills can come from healthcare facilities. These include Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements, patient statements, and electronic remittance advice.

Front-End Medical Billing

Front-end billing includes the data entry of patient information into the provider's practice management system and the creation of claims from that information. The process is critical to ensure that a claim contains all the information required to be processed efficiently.

Back-End Medical Billing

Back-end medical billing involves working with insurance companies to process denials, appeals, and other correspondence. This may be performed by an in-house staff member or a biller's representative at the provider's practice. The provider information includes the healthcare facility's information, the provider's name, and NPI, service dates and codes, etc.

What Is Medical Coding?

Medical coding is the transformation of medical information into standardized alphanumeric codes. These codes allow for comprehensive and consistent data collection, analysis, and reporting. This information is essential for billing and coding. It also allows providers to track the quality of care, monitor health trends, and provide patients with valuable information about their health status. The diagnosis, procedure, and medical code are assigned to a patient's record.

There are various coding systems in use throughout the medical industry. The most common of these include ICD-9, ICD-10, and HCPCS.

Medical coders recreate a role in the healthcare industry. They are responsible for reviewing patient medical records and assigning codes that reflect patient diagnoses, procedures performed, equipment used, etc. This information is critical for tracking physician performance, quality of care, and reimbursement processing.

Types Of Medical Codes

The three major medical codes are CPT (Current Procedural Terminology), ICD-9, and ICD-10. These codes are created by the American Medical Association (AMA) and updated regularly to reflect advances in medical science.

ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes

ICD-10 diagnostic codes are used to classify the signs, symptoms, and conditions that a patient experiences. Diagnostic coding is important for tracking health status, provision of care, and reimbursement processing.

ICD-10-CM is an expanded version of the ICD-10 code set, which contains additional codes, greater specificity, and updated coding conventions to provide more detailed information about a patient's diagnosis. The clinical modifications are specifically used to record diagnoses made in the outpatient setting. It includes new categories such as "complications of care." 

The International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision Clinical Modifications (ICD-10-CM) is a system used by healthcare providers to classify and code illnesses, injuries, and other health conditions. It allows for accurately describing and tracking patient diagnoses, procedures, and interventions.

The ICD-10-CM codes are structured into three levels: diagnosis, manifestation, and etiology. This coding system is essential for medical billing and reimbursement purposes, as well as clinical research and data tracking.

CPT And HCPCS Procedure Codes

CPT coding system is a monthly publication that provides information about current procedural terminology (CPT) codes and coding guidelines. This resource is essential for medical coders, billers, and other healthcare professionals. It includes updates on code changes, clarifications, articles on specific coding topics, and more.

HCPCS is a system for classifying non-physician services and supplies, including durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance transport. Like CPT codes, these codes are essential for billing and reimbursement purposes. It is also used for monitoring costs and tracking the quality of care.

In addition to ICD-10, CPT, and HCPCS codes, several other coding systems are used throughout the medical industry. These include ECC (Emergency Code), LOINC (Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes), and SNOMED (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine).

Charge Capture Codes

Charge capture codes provide valuable information regarding the services rendered to a patient and the associated costs. These codes include the procedure and department involved; billed items, supplies, additional charges; and reimbursement amounts. Charge capture codes are used for billing purposes to document the services provided, their associated costs accurately, and any other charges incurred.

Professional And Facility Codes

Professional and facility codes categorize services provided by physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. These codes differ from diagnostic and procedure codes in that they record the billing details of a service or treatment.

Medical coders must have a detailed understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology to interpret medical records accurately, assign relevant codes, and ensure accuracy in billing and reimbursement. In addition to coding skills, medical coders must have a strong concentration on detail, excellent administrative skills, and the capability to work well under pressure.

Which Is Better?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both medical billing and medical coding.

Medical Billing

Medical Billers are integral to the healthcare system, providing essential services for patients and medical facilities. As a medical biller, you will be responsible for submitting insurance patient claims, collecting payments from patients, and entering patient information into the appropriate systems. You must also thoroughly understand coding conventions to ensure accurate billing.

Medical Coding

Medical coders play an important role in healthcare by assigning accurate codes to patient diagnoses and procedures. As a coder, you will be responsible for abstracting relevant data from medical records, entering these data into coding systems, and maintaining coding databases. You must have strong attention to detail and excellent organizational skills to succeed in this role.

Understanding The Differences & Similarities

While there are many similarities between medical billing and coding, the biggest difference is in their roles within the healthcare system. Medical billers provide a vital service by facilitating payment from patients and insurance companies, while coders assign appropriate codes to patient data to ensure that each claim is processed accurately.

Jobs Are Different

Medical coders interpret medical records and assign codes to diagnoses and procedures. It is a complex process that requires a thorough knowledge of medical terminology, physiology, and anatomy. Computer-assisted coding (CAC) is an emerging technology that makes the coding process more accurate and efficient. CAC systems automatically extract data from medical records using natural language processing (NLP).

Medical billers are responsible for submitting insurance claims, collecting payments from patients, and entering patient information into the appropriate systems. Medical billing requires detailed knowledge of coding conventions and billing regulations. In addition to strong organizational skills, medical billers must be capable of working fast and efficiently under tight deadlines.

While the roles of medical billers and coders are different, they are both critical to the functioning of the healthcare system. Medical billers and coders work closely to ensure that patient data is accurately recorded and billing is done efficiently.

Personality Matters

To be successful in a career in medical billing or coding, you must have strong organizational skills and the capacity to work well under pressure. In addition, attention to detail is essential for accurately interpreting medical records and assigning appropriate codes. It is also necessary to have an interest in healthcare and a desire to help patients get their needed services. A background in medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology is also helpful when pursuing a career in billing or coding.

Your personality is important whether you are considering a medical billing or coding career. Both roles require strong organizational skills and the ability to work well under pressure.

Billers Vs. Coders: Work With Patients

While medical coders work with patient data to assign appropriate codes and accurately process claims, medical billers interact directly with patients. Billers are generally responsible for collecting payments from patients and processing insurance claims. They must be excellent communicators who work closely with patients and other healthcare professionals. In contrast, coders typically do not directly interact with patients, focusing instead on the technical aspects of medical coding.

Larger Facilities Means Specific Duties

In larger healthcare facilities, coders and billers may work separately. In smaller facilities, coders and billers may often share responsibilities. Depending on the facility, you may have more specific medical billing or coding duties.

For example, some facilities may provide specialized training for staff members to perform computer-assisted coding (CAC). CAC systems use NLP to extract patient data from medical records, making the coding process more efficient and accurate.

Coders typically work in the back end of the facility, focused on interpreting medical records and assigning appropriate codes. Billers interact directly with patients, collecting payments and entering patient information into the appropriate systems.

Whether you are curious about pursuing a career in medical coding or billing, it is important to understand the specific duties of each role and how they fit into the larger healthcare system.

Alliance Vs. Autonomy: Working With Others

One major difference between a career in medical billing and coding is the degree of interaction with others. For example, billers often work directly with patients, while coders do not interact directly with patients.

In the healthcare field, working well with others is essential to success. While billers and coders may have different responsibilities, they must collaborate to ensure accurate documentation and efficient billing.

For those interested in a medical billing or coding career, the degree of autonomy can vary depending on the role and facility. Billers typically work independently, while coders may have more guidance from senior staff members. However, both roles require good communication skills, as billers and coders must work closely with patients and other healthcare professionals.

Education & Certification Requirements

If you are interested in pursuing a medical billing or coding career, it is important to understand the education and certification requirements.

Most employers require coders and billers to have at least an associate's degree or certificate from an accredited training program. In addition, many facilities provide on-the-job training for new staff members who do not have formal training.

To become certified, coders must pass an accredited certification exam, such as the American Health Information Management Association's Certified Coding Associate (CCA) exam or the American Academy of Expert Coders Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam. Billers can pursue professional certification through the American Medical Billing Association, with credentials such as Certified Professional Biller (CPB) or Certified Coding Specialist (CCS).

Salary & Job Description May Vary

In addition to educational and certification requirements, the job duties of coders and billers may vary between facilities.

Depending on the role at a specific facility, you may perform more specialized tasks in addition to billing or coding. For example, some billers may be responsible for Medicaid/Medicare claims management, while others are focused solely on patient insurance payments. Similarly, coders may be required to manage and analyze electronic health records (EHRs) or work with CAC systems for optimal efficiency.

HealthCare Revenue Management Solutions

If you are considering hiring a medical biller or coder, check out our Revenue Cycle Management article for more information.

At Enter Health we are here to make life easier in all aspects of the medical billing field so go ahead and visit our website today to learn more about our medical AI programs and how we can help.

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