The Difference Between Medical Assisting and Medical Billing

Medical Assisting Several positions in the medical field involve work with patient health records, and there may be overlap among the different titles depending on the size of the facility. For example, in small offices, a medical assistant may have other roles, such as billing and bookkeeping tasks. A medical biller may also have coding and medical reception responsibilities. Generally, a medical assistant has clinical and administrative duties and a medical biller focuses on insurance and patient billing.

Medical Assisting

According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), medical assistants have clinical duties, determined by state law, such as preparing patients, exam rooms and instruments, venipuncture, taking vital signs, giving injections, sterilizing equipment, and explaining prescribed medical care to patients. They may also have office administration duties, such as front-office work, scheduling, and handling patient records. Medical assistants can specialize in different areas of health care and can have broader roles depending on the type and scope of the practice. In some offices, medical assistants perform billing, charting and documentation.

The Medical Assistant certification includes courses in administrative, clinical, and communication skills; ethical and legal standards of medical practice; and a supervised, 210-hour non-paid clinical practicum experience that includes competencies, logs and evaluations. Graduates of the program are eligible to take the National Certifying Examination given by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The core curriculum teaches medical practice, medical law and ethics, medical communications, medical records, insurance, patient preparation, and lab procedures and tests. Curriculum is combined with hands-on training on equipment typically used in a medical setting. Students learn skills in communications, administration, finance, law, healthcare advocacy, patient education, and medical operations.

Medical Billing
Medical billers, also known as health information technicians, are specialists within the area of medical records and health information management. The medical biller’s role is to assemble all data concerning the bill, translate a health care service into a billing claim, and follow that claim to ensure the practice receives reimbursement for services provided. Experienced billers can optimize revenue performance for the practice. Tasks include charge entry, claims transmission, payment posting, insurance follow-up, and patient follow-up. Other responsibilities include regularly communicating with physicians and other health care professionals to clarify or obtain information. They may also process Medicare and Medicaid claims. A medical biller must understand how to read medical records and be familiar with CPT®, HCPCS Level II and ICD-9-CM codes.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most billing and coding specialists have an associate's degree, and employers usually prefer to hire coding specialists who are certified. Medical billing programs are 12-24 months and often lead to an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Billing and Coding. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers certification. To sit for AHIMA's Registered Health Information Technician certification exam, the associate degree must be completed. Core curriculum includes courses in medical terminology, anatomy, medical office procedures, medical insurance, electronic health records, CPT/HCPS coding and ICD coding. An externship at a school-approved healthcare facility is often required.

by Linda Bright

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