Trends in Billing and Coding for Allied Health Care Education

During my thirty-year career in allied health care, I've witnessed many exciting changes in the industry. These next two years are no exception, as we continue the migration from paper records to electronic health records (EHR), the implementation of ICD-10, and exciting new job opportunities for allied health care students and those already in the field. As Program Chair for Medical Assisting and Medical Insurance Billing and Office Administration (MIBOA) for Ross Education, LLC, one of my goals is to ensure that students are prepared for the changes ahead.

We learned from Hurricane Katrina and the loss of thousands of medical records that electronic health records are essential to providing improved patient care for both patients and medical professionals. In addition to medical offices, allied health care schools throughout the country, such as ours, will be updating their curriculum and technology to prepare students and instructors for the changes ahead.  Future allied health care providers will need basic EHR knowledge and experience to ensure success as they begin their career.  Per a federal mandate, EHR compliance is currently set for October 2014.

The long-overdue conversion to ICD-10 will result in a much more robust billing procedure. ICD-10 will lead to more detailed information, quicker reimbursement, and less interaction with insurance providers. But it's not just enough to understand billing and coding. Programs such as ours provide in-depth classes in medical terminology and anatomy and physiology. Students learn the administrative and financial side of the business, with an emphasis on how proper billing and coding procedures can make or break the profitability of an office.

Medical Scribes
The medical scribe via a hospital or third party is an exciting field with growth opportunity in the billing and coding arena. In a fast-paced medical setting  especially in the emergency room  doctors simply don't have time to document every patient encounter. Scribes provide an invaluable service by shadowing the physician and documenting and coding on the spot. This also eliminates a step in the billing process. Currently, a billing specialist would verify codes and enter them directly into the patient account; however, this step would be eliminated if a scribe was used.  While many students choose a career in billing and coding because they'd rather not be part of the blood and guts in a hospital setting, the medical scribe position is a fantastic opportunity for those who enjoy patient contact and physician interaction.

In our industry, it is an advantage to maintain the proper credentials. At Ross, we believe in this so strongly that we will pay for each student to take a credentialing exam.  The medical assistant graduate has the opportunity to sit for the RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) exam, and the medical billing and office administration extern has the opportunity to sit for the CBCS (Certified Billing and Coding Specialist) exam. This accomplishes several purposes. Not only does it improve the graduate's self-esteem, it makes them more attractive to potential employers. It also strengthens our relationships with employers who develop a deeper understanding about our school. Those who successfully pass the test serve as role models for current students, and encourage them to "go the extra mile."

In the higher education field, it's not enough to arm students with the knowledge they'll need on the job. We must constantly look toward the future to prepare them for the opportunities that lie ahead.

Ms. Barb Westrick, CMA, CBCS, CPC
Ms. Barb Westrick has over 30 years' experience in the allied health field, specifically in medical documentation, billing, and coding for the last 15 years. She has been an instructor for the past 9 years, initially in the Medical Assisting program and currently in the Medical Insurance Billing and Office Administration (MIBOA) program for Ross Medical Education Center in Brighton, Michigan. She is currently the Program Chair for Medical Assisting and MIBOA for Ross Education, LLC (, where her role includes faculty and curriculum development.

About Ross Medical Education Center
Since 1976, Ross Medical Education Center has dedicated itself to providing a quality curriculum that meets the needs of students who desire focused, short-term allied health education. Ross has 22 locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia. All of its schools are accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), which is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for the accreditation of private, postsecondary allied health education programs in the United States. Each Ross campus is also licensed by the state in which it is located. More information can be found at or by calling toll-free, (800) 833-ROSS (7677).