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Healthy career outlook for health care professionals with law skills

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(BPT) – Career opportunities in the health care industry are expected to continue growing more quickly than in virtually any other industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Not only is the health care industry expected to add more than 2 million new jobs by 2024, many existing roles will continue to evolve, creating additional opportunities for professionals currently working in what is a very broad field.

Health care law is one area seeing significant growth, thanks in part to the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s one of the fastest-growing disciplines for graduate and post-graduate degrees, according to Lawyer & Statesman. The changes spurred by the ACA are also inspiring many professionals to learn more about the law to enhance their career opportunities and boost their skill sets.

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“Health care professionals routinely find their day-to-day tasks affected by legal issues like regulatory compliance, risk management, malpractice, ethics, and patient privacy,” says Scott Johnson, professor of law at Concord Law School, part of Kaplan University. “Recent laws and regulations governing these issues and the delivery of health services generally make knowledge of health care law a real career asset these days. A background in law can help a wide range of professionals, from administrators to clinicians to technology entrepreneurs be more effective in their current roles and better positioned to seize emerging opportunities.”

Legal expertise can benefit health care professionals and their patients across many aspects of the industry, but it is particularly helpful in three key areas, Johnson notes:

* Regulatory compliance – Compliance professionals help providers prevent, detect, and correct any actions, policies, or procedures that are counter to the many regulations governing the health care industry. They also help promote ethical conduct. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 propelled growth in this area and regulatory compliance has been one of the fastest-growing professions over the past 15 years. Health care professionals in a wide range of positions including those who work with electronic health records, Medicare or Medicaid requirements, or the various requirements from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could benefit from knowledge of legal issues related to regulatory compliance.

* Ethics – A subspecialty of regulatory compliance, knowing legal issues related to ethics is particularly important for professionals working in facilities where research also takes place. Bioethical principles and standards cover areas such as human subject research, genetic privacy, patient rights, rehabilitation ethics and more.

* Risk management – This discipline focuses on reducing errors to protect patients as well as health care employers. This includes provider and institutional liability, notification and apology programs, risk assessments, patient safety, and adverse event reporting.

The growth of health care law has encouraged schools to create specialized degree programs for professionals seeking added legal expertise, but not planning to become practicing attorneys. For example, Kaplan’s Concord Law School offers a health care law track within its Executive Juris Doctorate (EJD) program. Since most industry professionals are working full-time, and often outside of the typical 9-5 work day, going back to school can be challenging. However, as the first fully online law school since 1998, Concord provides a unique solution.

“One of the great benefits of the online EJD Health Law program is that it is offered through our law school,” Johnson says. “EJD students take the same classes that our law students take and they learn from the same law professors. Attending our law school provides EJD students with a thorough understanding of the law. They enjoy the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to analyze the law and explain its impact. Plus, they get to do all of it in a flexible, online program. EJD students can apply these skills by helping health care providers and professionals comply with the myriad of state and federal laws that govern health care.”

To learn more about Concord Law School and the health care law track, visit www.concordlawschool.edu.

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Certified coders in high demand following ICD-10 implementation

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(BPT) – Nine years ago, Peter Esswein, a resident of Sandy Springs, Georgia, enrolled in a health information technology degree program at DeVry University to capitalize on the growing prominence of electronic medical records.

“I always wanted to work in the medical industry, and the time was right for a personal career change,” Esswein says. “Completing my associate degree in health information technology gave me the confidence and skills I needed to progress on my new career path.”coders

Now, as Esswein continues his career as a coding quality assistant, health care is changing again. Following the release of a medical coding system overhaul in October 2015, expected updates in the near future are underscoring the demand for coders. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision, or ICD-10, increased the number of medical codes by more than 50,000 – and in fiscal year 2017, about 5,500 more diagnostic and impatient procedure codes will roll out.

“The new codes are designed to enable more informative, accurate recording of the medical information required to bill correctly for reimbursement,” Esswein says. “In my role, it’s essential that I not only understand ICD-10, but that I’m staying ahead of what’s coming next to help alleviate any confusion in my workplace and mitigate mistakes in advance.”

Prepping for industry change

Many health care organizations say transitioning to the new system was their biggest challenge last year. While Esswein graduated years ago and is getting on-the-job training with the new system, many employers struggled to find qualified new technicians, since recent graduates had studied the previous classification system, ICD-9.

To get these new grads up to speed, DeVry University offered an ICD-10 course at no cost for medical billing and coding graduates who had registered by November 2015 and students in their last semester of the program. All future courses will be taught using ICD-10 as the standard.

“DeVry University programs will continue to evolve as healthcare advances and becomes more accessible in the United States,” says Kristyn Murphy-Rodvill, assistant national dean in the College of Health Sciences at DeVry University. “We know finishing a degree program during an industry transition can create obstacles for recent grads. Our ICD-10 course is designed to eliminate those barriers and prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need to be competitive in their field.”

Propelling the future of health care

Knowledgeable health information technology experts – from coders to technicians and managers – are projected to remain in high demand through 2022. Medical billing is projected to grow by 22 percent in this time period.

“With the right education, the future is bright for healthcare professionals,” says Murphy-Rodvill. “DeVry’s programs are designed to help students grow their professional expertise, and remain at the forefront in their industry.”

Written by Tyrone Turner

May 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm