Health Claims Specialist Training and Education Program Information

A health claims specialist works for a hospital, doctor's office, insurance company or healthcare facility, coding patient treatments and records for insurance and billing purposes. An Associate of Science in Health Information Technology is the most common program in this field. Read on for information on common courses in these programs as well as the employment outlook, including salary projections, for graduates.

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Essential Information

Health claims specialists (and health information technicians in general) must have a solid understanding of how to operate the electronic records systems used by most medical facilities and health insurance companies. A 2-year degree program in health information technology provides the training to use such technology, as well as a broad understanding of medical terminology and basic health care procedures.

Students typically spend their first two semesters studying computer science, human anatomy and basic medical procedures. They spend their second year learning technical coding procedures, billing techniques and reimbursement strategies. Many community colleges and vocational schools require students to complete a supervised practical experience, or internship, at a nearby medical facility. Graduates can apply for professional certification, which many employers prefer.

Education Prerequisites

In addition to having a high school diploma, individuals interested in enrolling in an associate's degree program for health claims specialists should have completed at least one course in high school biology. They should also have strong reading and writing comprehension and a working understanding of computer operating systems and keyboarding.

Program Coursework

Most associate's degree programs in health information technology include classroom sessions as well as computer laboratory clinics, in addition to a supervised internship or practical experience session. Sample courses examine:

  • Medical terminology
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Basic computer science
  • Health information management principles
  • ICD-9-CM coding systems
  • Healthcare reimbursement methods
  • Human diseases and epidemiology
  • Health data systems

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Although data isn't available specific to the title of 'health claims specialist,' medical records and health information technicians made up a workforce of 179,500 individuals as of 2010 with a 21% growth increase expected over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual salary for these professionals was $34,160 as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov).

Certification and Continuing Education

While certification is not required in the field of health information technology, potential employers encourage applicants to be certified. Health claims specialists can gain coding credentials from organizations such as the American Academy of Professional Coders or the Board of Medical Specialty Coding. They can also gain certification as Registered Health Information Technicians (RHITs) by completing an exam given by the American Health Information Management Association. Health claims specialists interested in moving into positions of management might consider enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management program.

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