The health care industry requires accounting professionals who combine basic accounting skills with specific health-care knowledge. They manage short-term financial needs and plan for long-term financial goals, while maintaining appropriate security for patient privacy. They work directly with insurers and maintain payroll and budgets for an entire organization.
At an absolute minimum, accountants need a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. Many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree. Many accountants become certified. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, involves passing a national exam and meeting your state's specific education and experience requirements. For health care accountants, it's preferable to have a background in medical billing or insurance billing. This knowledge can come from community college or continuing education courses in medical billing or from experience working in the health-care billing field, or from a master's degree in health care management.
Required and Desired Skills
Accountants need strong math skills. They also have the technical ability to work with both basic and advanced computer software programs. Accountants are detail oriented, analytical, organized, and able to communicate well in writing and verbally. In addition, health care accountants need solid interpersonal skills to work directly with their counterparts at insurance companies to facilitate billing issues. This is a desk job, requiring the ability to sit and focus for long periods of time.
Main Job Functions
Health care accountants perform regular accounting duties like filing taxes and maintaining budgets in health care offices, such as hospitals and medical facilities. They are also responsible for payroll and bill-paying. In addition, they manage patient accounts, and depending on the organization, may bill patients and insurance companies directly. The primary duties of an accountant in a health care business are to manage the day-to-day financial aspects of the business to ensure that the company is financially stable and compliant with all applicable tax and finance laws.
Secondary Job Functions
A health care accountant is bound by patient privacy laws. If accountants have access to patient information, they are legally required to safeguard information and keep it confidential. In some cases, a health care accountant manages the long-term growth of a business by handling investments and cash management.
Several professional organizations exist specifically for health care managers. These include the National CPA Health Care Advisors Association, which is designed for large accounting firms, and the Healthcare Financial Management Association, which puts out a newsletter providing up-to-date information on the health care financial industry to its members.