How to Enroll In the Right Medical Coding School near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's essential that you choose the right school to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you probably know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the USA, and a growing number of options are offered both online and on campus to obtain the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of future students start by searching for colleges that are within travelling distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and select the cheapest one. But while location and cost are significant factors when making your choice, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation should be taken into account also. We will review a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are assessing so that you can find out what you need to know prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do.
Medical Coder Job Description
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to analyze the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment utilized. There are multiple codes that are used in this conversion process, including the following:
- CPT codes (Current Procedural Terminology).
- ICD codes (International Classification of Diseases).
- HCPCS codes (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding).
Medical coders depend on information from sources including nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. Medical Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accuracy, but must have a functioning knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to services not being paid for, services being paid for at a decreased rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Birmingham AL physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in income annually, a good medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare team. They can operate in any kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for professional medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Duties
As important as the medical coder's function is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Birmingham AL healthcare organizations and are essentially responsible for keeping their doors open. In many cases the coder and biller can be the same person within a healthcare facility, but they can also be two individual professionals. When the coder has performed his or her duty, the biller uses the codes supplied to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the applicable entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Confirm medical insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been denied
- Work as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for proper claim resolution
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for private practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They may practice in every type of healthcare facility that relies on the revenues generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Classes
If you are searching for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then selecting a medical billing and coding online school may be an excellent option. They can be especially attractive to those living in Birmingham AL who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have additional obligations that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional benefit, online colleges are often less expensive than the standard classroom options. Expenses for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it's imperative to confirm that the online course you enroll in is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will review the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to check that any online training you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to devote yourself to this type of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Schools
Now that you have a general idea just what a medical biller and coder does, along with what training options are available, you must begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there many training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you should have a ready list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you include all of the online schools that offer medical billing and coding classes, the task can become rather formidable. As we have already covered, cost and location are going to be significant issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be traveling to classes from your Birmingham home. And confirming that the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting process also. So let's review some of the other questions that you should ask the schools you are looking at so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's crucial that the school and program you select are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the training you receive will be of superior quality, it could help with your future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL healthcare facilities will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational course. And financial aid and student loans are often only obtainable for schools that have earned an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before enrolling in a medical coding and billing program, check out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other colleges. This is particularly relevant if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will basically be relying on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, confirming that the school is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school as well. Another option is to check with some Birmingham AL medical organizations that you may have an interest in working for and find out which programs they suggest. Keep in mind that even if the college itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Referral Program? Finding a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new profession may be difficult without the support of a job placement program. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is a good indication that the coding and billing school has a considerable network of healthcare employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College Located? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Obviously if you enroll in an online medical coding and billing program, then the location of the school will not be important. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first research those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding certification courses can differ in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the length of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial assistance department to find out what is available in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, a portion of these added costs, such as for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students continue working while attending college and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time schedule, check that the school you enroll in offers that option. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Training
Picking the right medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a critical initial step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding sector of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the fastest growing careers in the health sector. As a result, there are a lot of vocational schools, junior colleges and companies that offer training and instruction in medical billing and coding. As we have reviewed, you can opt to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the college you select has an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care community. But however you elect to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better prepared to assess your options and pick the ideal medical billing and coding college. And with the proper training, you can accomplish your career goal to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Birmingham Alabama.