What is the Difference Between Billing and Coding?

The terms “billing” and “coding” are used so often together that it is easy to think they’re interchangeable. That really isn’t true, as they’re quite different in health information management, although the same individual may be responsible for both. Each role refers to a very necessary part of efficient administration of the financial records side of healthcare, and it’s important for anyone in the industry to understand the difference.

Medical Coding

Medical coding is a means by which various diagnoses and treatments are categorized, not just for the sake of billing the patient, but also for efficient records keeping. Currently, the most commonly used medical code is the ICD–9, but a more comprehensive set of codes (ICD–10) will be in effect in 2013. A primary benefit of medical codes is based in the information provided. Instead of having to dig through long reports on diagnosis and treatment, coding condenses everything into a readily condensed language that can be useful for record storage later on. Medical coding is also a little more patient-concentrated, as the codes are intended to reflect the condition and treatment of a given case; although coding does allow for compilation of data on a number of cases for the purpose of medical research as well.

Medical Billing

Medical billing is the money side of health information management. Codes are used in billing, but the primary purpose is to collect money or have information on hand in order to justify the costs that a patient incurs. The bills themselves ordinarily go out in the form of claims to an insurance company; other professionals and insurance companies then interpret the billing data and determine how much coverage will be provided for a given claim.

Comparing the Two

In considering the differences between billing and coding, the basics of medicine play a role. Those who are medical coders must have an idea of anatomy and disease, which is part of their core training. Therefore, medical terminology is something that a coding professional must be familiar with, and many individuals take additional courses to gain a better understanding of the language of medicine.

Conversely, medical billing is a bit more management-oriented. It is important that billing information be accurate for the sake of financial reports and any auditing accountability. Because the work is so closely connected to revenue generation, there is a definite need for timeliness as well as correct figures. While billing is not totally isolated from the medical care of a patient, it’s primary concern still goes to the nickels and dimes of healthcare.

What About Pay?

It’s only natural when considering the differences that a person may wonder which one holds the greatest career opportunities or pays the highest salaries. The answer lies within the healthcare industry itself and it appears that both billing and coding are running on parallel tracks. Healthcare is a rapidly growing part the American economy and will be for many years to come. It isn’t just changes brought about by legislation but also by demographics. The American population is growing older, and at the same time, treatments are being developed that require exact information. Because of this, it is not very likely that cost will cease to be an issue. Billing information will always need to be exact, and it is probable that more government support of healthcare will result in greater demands for accountability and auditing.

An individual making the decision between the medical billing and medical coding should be as concerned about the fit between his or her own temperament as the given options career or wages. Some people are better suited for accounting work while others feel more comfortable coding diagnoses; either way, future prospects look extremely good for both, as more and more opportunities continue to develop.

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