Do You Have What It Takes to be a Good Medical Biller or Coder?

You may have heard a lot about the medical billing and coding profession. Due to the ageing population, advances in medical technology, and the increasing complexity of the medical reimbursement process, the medical billing and coding field is growing rapidly.

This means that there are a growing number of job opportunities in all fields of medical billing and coding, making it a common option in many education and job searches. You may have read some of these job postings or educational options and wondered if you have the right skillset to succeed in the field of medical billing or coding.

What does it take to be a great medical biller? What does it take to be a good coder?

Attributes of great medical billers and coders

Luckily, the medical billing and coding profession is so big that there are a number of options for every different personality type. That being said, the best medical billers and coders have many of the same attributes.

Most of these important character traits include an analytical personality, attention to detail, and organizational skills that allow the individual to keep track of lots of things at once.

  • Attention to detail:

    Attention to detail is extremely important in the medical billing and coding profession, and is perhaps the most necessary character trait. Many of the responsibilities of either a coder or a biller rely on the ability to pay attention to minute details which can make a huge difference.

    For example, in procedural coding, common surgical procedures are incisions and openings into the body, usually to allow access for a surgical procedure or surgical instrument.

    Incisions into the body are called -otomies, whereas openings are called -ostomies. There is a big difference between a tracheostomy and a tracheotomy - if you don't pay attention to that little "s" which makes all the difference, you'll be assigning the wrong procedure code!

    In billing, on the other hand, you are dealing with claims that have already been coded and billed, and need to make sure that each code is paid correctly.

    If the code has been denied, you have to find out why it has been denied, and correct or appeal the claim as necessary.

    This means that you have to pay attention to all of the details on the explanation of benefits, as well as the intricacies of all of the codes assigned to the claim, to make sure that the claim was paid correctly.

    See: how to appeal a denied insurance claim.

  • Organizational skills:

    Because medical billing and coding is so complex, it pays to be well-organized.

    Depending on your office, you may be billing or coding for hundreds to tens of thousands of patients. You have to be able to keep track of all the claims and make sure they all get paid within the right time frame.

    Of course, you'll have assistance from your office practice management program, as well as many other tools to help you keep track of codes and claims. But if your desk is a disorganised mess, your job will be much harder than it would be otherwise.

  • Analytical skills:

    Because you are working with numbers and money, a strong analytical ability is a plus. The types of analytical skills needed include making sure that everything is where it needs to be on a claim, and checking that the diagnosis and procedure codes match up, validating the medical necessity of the service.

    Other important analytical skills include the ability to analyze medical records to assign the correct diagnosis and procedure codes on a claim, and making sure the claim was billed correctly.

  • Professionalism and good phone etiquette are hugely important in medical billing, even if it may not seem like it!

  • Professionalism:

    Being a professional is also very important in medical billing and coding.

    In this business, you are dealing closely with people's money and healthcare, so it sometimes puts the biller in a very difficult position.

    People go to the doctor not to pay bills but to manage their health or the health of their loved ones. When they get left with a bill they are usually a little upset.

    This means that when you call to collect on a balance, they may not be in the best of moods. You have to be as professional as possible in these situations.

    Sometimes all it takes for patients to leave your practice is one unprofessional, rude phone call or interaction with the medical biller. And when patients leave your practice, it is like money walking out the door.

    See: how to collect patient balances without being pushy or rude.

  • Working with others:

    Working with others goes along with professionalism. It's not necessarily the way you act with your patients, but with your co-workers.

    This is also very important. The medical billing and coding field is vast, and encompasses large-scale operations such as hospitals, to small, one-doctor practices. This means you could be working in a tiny office or a big corporation.

    Either way, you have to be able to work in close-quarters with others, so that together you can get the claims paid.

    Another important thing to keep in mind is that even if you are the only biller/coder, you still have to work with the nurses, front office staff, and doctor.

  • Read difficult handwriting:

    One of the last character traits is the ability to read bad handwriting.

    This may seem a little goofy, but is really is a necessity. Doctors have notoriously bad handwriting - you need to be able to read it and decipher complicated medical prose. If you can't do this, then you will be at a disadvantage.

What if I don't have all of these character traits?

Don't worry!

Most of these attributes are things that can be learned, usually while on-the-job and with practice.

If you enter the field with these traits then you'll be ahead of the pack. But if you don't, you can still learn them all, and make sure you are a success in whatever area you choose in medical billing or coding!


You'll be working in a healthcare setting as a medical coder - is this what you want?

Before you embark on this career path, take some time out and think about what you want out of your work.

Ask yourself questions about your individual temperament...

  • Do you have the focus required to handle detailed medical procedures and process them quickly?
  • Are you interested in learning about the body and healthcare?
  • Are you prepared to go back to school?

You'll need to pay for an educational program and get certified to begin a career in medical billing. Are you prepared to put in that kind of time and effort?

You'll also have to take a standardized certification exam (for advice on passing this, see our article on medical coding exam preparation).

Ultimately, before beginning this or any other career you'll need to take a hard look at your personal motivations and desires.

Also consider the time commitment involved before you can start applying for paid positions as a medical biller or coder. Determine whether or not your life and financial situation allows for that.

Wondering what a typical day looks like for a medical biller? See 'A Day in the Life of My Medical Billing Company'.

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