Home Health Coding – Questions and Answers

home health coding

A Certified Coder specializing in home health

Are you tired of applying for clerical or administrative jobs that do not pay enough or have good benefit? Are you looking for a career that offers you opportunities now as well as in the future? If so, home health coding could be right for you. There are plenty of openings for trained professionals in the home healthcare arena. These careers offer flexibility, security, and job satisfaction. If you are tired of competing with other applicants for the few jobs out there that might meet your qualifications and expectations, train now to be a home health care coding professional. This question-and-answer guide tells you everything you need to know about the medical home health coding profession.

Benefits of the Home Health Coding Profession

·         Flexibility
·         Security
·         Job Satisfaction


What does a home health care coding professional do?

Home healthcare coding is a process by which trained, skilled workers classify the different conditions and procedures provided to patients into alphanumerical codes. These codes allow other health professionals to communicate with one another, and they are especially significant in the healthcare claim submission process. Home health coding professionals decide what code goes on the claim on the behalf of the healthcare providers, such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse assistants, physical therapists, and more. The claims are then billed to insurance companies or patients, depending on the situation. Many times, the costs are shared in which appropriate bills are sent out so that the healthcare providers can earn adequate compensation. Coders must assure that the assigned code they put on each bill is sufficient enough to get these claims paid.

Home Healthcare Providers

·         Doctors
·         Nurses
·         Nurse Assistants
·         Physical Therapists
·         Respiratory Therapists
·         Social Workers

What is home health coding?

Home healthcare coding experts provide a key link in the chain of medical billing. Each time a patient receives home health care in the community setting, the provider documents what services he or she provides. The home health coder will abstract the information from a diagnosis and procedure document, assign the appropriate home health codes, and create a claim that goes out to the agency, insurance company, CMS or patient.

Home Health Coding Recipients

·         Healthcare Agencies
·         Insurance Companies
·         CMS
·         Patients

Is home health coding the same as home health billing?

The answer to this is no, home healthcare coding and home health billing are separate things. While the home health coding professional and home health biller often are the same person or two people who work closely together, these tasks differ in many ways. The home health coder is primarily responsible for obtaining and assigning a code on a claim. To do this, he or she checks a variety of sources and reference materials to find the code that matches the diagnosis, procedure, task or other item from the healthcare providers report. Also, the home health coding professional must identify certain aspects inside the patient’s medical record, such as doctor’s notes, nurse’s notes, laboratory tests, and other sources. The coder then assigns procedural codes (called CPT codes), ICD-9 codes (called diagnosis codes) and HCPCS codes (called  system codes) to report what was done for the patient as well as who provided the care. This information allows the home health biller the ability to then process the medical claim for appropriate reimbursement from the requested agency.

Home Health Coding Tasks

  • Obtains the appropriate code
  • Assigns codes to a claim
  • Checks sources to match diagnosis
  • Assigns correct CPT, ICD-9 and HCPCS codes
  • Works with medical biller to get claim paid

How do I break into the home health coding job workforce?

It takes a certain amount of training and education to become skilled at home healthcare coding. For starters, coders must have a basic knowledge of physical anatomy and medical terminology. Additionally, he or she should become familiar with the various forms of insurance plans as well as the current insurance regulations. These careers generally appeal to individuals who want to be a part of the medical profession but have no desire to work in the clinical aspect of healthcare. Some people simply prefer to do administrative and support work rather than be on the front line of care provision. If this sounds like your type of job, you will be happy to find out that it does not take long to acquire the skills and education necessary for a home health coding career

What materials and reference books are available for home healthcare coders?

The compliance and coding resources books are the CPT, the ICD-9-CM and the HCPCS Level II. Other guidelines are provided by the home health agency itself. Code books and reference materials give the home medical coding professional the data he or she needs to assign correct codes to record the service levels and procedures performed. In order for the home health company to get paid for the supplies used to treat the patient during and encounter, the home health coder must assign the proper materials code along with the matching diagnosis code that corresponds with the procedure. The home health coding expert essentially completes the “story” about the patient and his or her illness or injury.

Coding Resources

  • CPT – Current Procedural Terminology
  • ICD-9-CM – International Classification of Diseases
  • HCPCS – Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System

Where can I obtain the training needed to start down the path to a home health coding career?

You have many different options for this. Some people choose to go to a university or community college, while others elect to attend a vocational school. Also, online learning is gaining popularity because it saves time and money. If hands-on training sounds right for you, you can get an internship through many medical offices and home health care facilities. While both online and offline schools offer internships to approved candidates and hopeful professionals, many learn better in a real live medical setting. Make valuable connections and network with other home health coding professionals to help you transition into the healthcare arena.

How long will it take to finish my education and start working as a home health coding professional?

Most home medical coding professionals complete their training in less than 12 months. If you are really focused and dedicated, you can finish in less than 6 months. Classes include alphanumeric coding training, human anatomy and medical terminology. Some people can take all of these at once to expedite their education and start working sooner. Most home health coding experts work fulltime, but there are many part-time positions available in this field.

How well do home health coding jobs pay?

Most people who choose to go into the home medical coding profession already have some clerical training and administrative skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for billing and coding in 2010 was $31,000. The pay will depend on your expertise, years of experience, other skills and job duties and amount of education. The minimum amount, according to the BLS, is $21,000, while the high earners make as much as $ 51,000 per year.

Become a Home Health Coding Professional

So, home healthcare coding may not be the highest paying job in the world, but it is a stable work opportunity that has many great benefits. As you advance in the profession, you can climb higher up the home healthcare ladder and earn as much as $51,000 a year. There is always something to be said for having a stable income and working for a company that offers flexibility and job security. Just as medical providers know their jobs are always in demand, home health coding professionals know that they can depend on this demand to secure their place in the profession. Because patients will always need nurses, doctors, and other healthcare attendees, home health coders are important auxiliary staff members who are indispensable to the function of the home healthcare agency.

References

AAPC (2013). American Association of Professional Coders. http://www.aapc.com/AboutUs/

AHCC (2013).  Home health billing and coding. http://ahcc.decisionhealth.com/vision.aspx

Coding Center (2013). Home health coding. http://codingcenter.decisionhealth.com/

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