BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — If you’d like to work in a medical profession that offers flexible hours and the ability to work from home, Pinellas Technical College (PTC) offers its Medical Coder/ Biller and Medical Record Transcribing programs at the St. Pete campus.
Both programs take about a year to complete and since they are online courses, students for the most part can set their own schedules.
“Medical coding and billing is basically how the physicians are getting paid for their services and procedures,” explained Bonnie Capra, instructor for both programs, “and coding is an aspect of billing where you’re actually doing the data entry portion of it.”
In the initial course for both programs, Introduction to Health Information Technology, students learn safety procedures, communication skills, along with basic math, science and computer literacy.
“They learn health information, technology, how it ties into their health career field in billing/coding or transcribing,” Capra said. “They learn about ethical, legal issues; communication with your employer, communication with your coworkers, business correspondence. Employability skills is the main thing that we focus on.”
The Medical Coder/ Biller courses involve learning procedures that take place in medical billing or coding facility, whether it’s in a doctor’s office, front office or back office procedures, Capra stated.
Students learn the proper way to greet patients, take their information and handling the whole billing cycle from the time the patients make an appointment with that facility to the time that the physician is getting paid, Capra explained.
“The whole billing process, they learn it front to back,” said Capra, who has been a PTC instructor for five years.
After students complete the first two sessions of the program, they are qualified to sit for the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist certification exam.
In the Medical Record Transcribing program, the focus is on achieving knowledge and comprehension of medical terminology in order to transcribe reports dictated by heath care professionals into a document format.
“You learn all those medical terms,” Capra said, “and learn how they’re used in context, so you really have to have a clear understanding of anatomy, physiology and body system so that when you hear something you’re going to be able to decipher whether it makes sense or not in the context it’s being used.”
Students learn the operation of word processing and transcription equipment, and grammar, spelling and punctuation skills are key. The program not only teaches transcription skills but instills in students the importance of ethical and legal principles involving medical records and the confidentiality of such reports.
Capra said an appealing perk of these careers is that people can work from home and set their own hours. She added that it is common for graduates to get at least some initial on-site experience with medical coding/billing, but with medical transcription people can start working from their homes as soon as they successfully complete the program.
PTC also offers job placement assistance to graduates, and Capra noted the college’s high rate of placing graduates.
“You’re pretty much guaranteed a job—we’ve had a 100 percent job placement in this transcription program,” she attested, adding that the companies for transcription are worldwide. “You can work for a company based in California and they may have a client who’s right here, your doctor down the street.”
Many of these companies hire potential employees online, Capra noted.
“There’s a few local facilities that house transcriptionists,” she said, “but the majority of jobs you find them online, you test for them online.”
Students of all ages are getting into these fields, Capra said, from high school age teens to adults looking for a career change. The flexible schedules benefit students with busy lives and families, she added. The set-your-own-hours aspect of these careers appeals to many former medical professionals as well.
“With transcription it’s very attractive to nurses who are just getting ready to retire, they’re ready to get off their feet,” Capra explained. “They’ve got the medical knowledge and kind of want to do something that is not as physical. You can work anywhere there’s an internet connection. You can stay with that same company and just keep working.”
Since there is always a call for professionals in the coding/billing and transcription fields, Capra is confident PTC graduates can contribute to the medical field in their own way.
“Employers are recognizing our students, they’re noticing our students have the quality training they need to get right into the job,” Capra said. “The job outlook is fantastic!”
If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available. See ad to the right.
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org