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Medical billing, a rewarding career even if you can’t really work from home

If you believe the late night tv ads, medical billing is a career that is “so easy and flexible, you can do it from home, even part time!”

While a career in medical billing can be rewarding, experts say these ads are the work of sneaky advertisers.

Entry-level candidates usually start their medical billing careers in a physician’s office, said Dane Browner, Division Director for Office Team in Savannah, Ga.

And promises from glitzy television commercials cannot match the merits of education.

 “We usually look for someone with some type of certificate from a technical school,” he said.

Finding a medical coding training program from an accredited college or university is important. Earning a degree or a certificate can help individuals become knowledgeable about  medical terminology, coding, billing, transcription, data processing and record keeping.

Going to school for medical billing can also help individuals decide whether they want to focus on physician coding or hospital/inpatient coding.

The good news is, once you’ve earned a degree or certification, it can be used anywhere your military life takes you.

“State laws may be different, but billing is billing,” said Jennifer Winter, office manager at Coastal Medical Billing, also in Savannah.

“We are also looking for a good personality, phone presence and general computer knowledge,” Browner said. “Previous work experience is a plus, especially when we are placing candidates in more advanced billing positions.”

Winter also recognizes the value of on the job experience.

“Most of our staff here started out when we were 18- or 20-years-old, working at a front desk at a doctor’s office learning and moving our way up. Not all of us even have certifications,” she said. “And you can take your experience wherever you go.”

Winter’s career gets a boost because of her vast knowledge of medical terminology, learned on the job, and having had experience working with different specialties.

But, earning a degree can be a good supplement for people who are new to the field or may be switching from another career. Some programs are even offered online, like the Medical Reimbursement & Coding Degree at Bryant & Stratton College Online, so you can take them while still balancing your current job and/or family responsibilities.

Now, the burning question: Can you really do this from home and just how flexible is it?

“I suppose it’s possible to contract with physicians, but I don’t know of any legitimate company that I work with which does that,” Browner said. “And there is no such thing as part-time medical billing.”

Winter said the commercials make her laugh.

“I guess you could do it from home, but you’d better already know a doctor that wants you to do his or her billing, because it’s hard. We are a medical billing company with tons of experience, and sometimes it’s hard for us to get new clients,” Winter said.  “You’re not going to go to someone, with no experience, and just get their business. You need experience and know-how. You’re dealing with people’s money.”

In the field of medical billing, employees can choose to work in a hospital, physician’s office or insurance billing, meaning there are often a number of companies to apply at with each PCS move.

If you have some experience, or a medical billing certificate, and it’s time to move, Browner suggests checking out job websites,  registering with staffing agencies and filling out applications online for the area you are moving to.

“Get everything ready that you can ahead of time so that you’re set to come in for an interview when you get to your new city,” he said.

If you have no experience, but want to enter the field of medical billing, Winter recommends applying for a job at a local doctor’s office.

“Start working at the front desk and work your way to the back. The experience you gain can and will go everywhere with you,” she said. “In many places and specialties, the codes are always changing, but you can figure them out easily because you’re doing it every day.”

Winter, who has been in the medical billing field for more than 20 years, loves her job and highly recommends it to those searching for a career.

 “My office has so much combined experience in so many different specialties. This is the best group I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “There is always someone hiring for medical billing, people are always getting sick, and this field is not going away.”

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