How to Pick the Best Medical Billing and Coding School near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's essential that you find the appropriate school to ensure that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you may already know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the Country, and a growing number of options are offered both on campus and online to obtain the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of future students begin by searching for programs that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they might surf the internet looking for online classes and select the cheapest one. But while cost and location are important factors when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be considered as well. We will review a list of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating so that you can learn what you must know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the academic and certification options offered.
Medical Coding Job Description
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to examine the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies utilized. There are several codes that are utilized 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 rely on information from sources such as physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all private payer and government regulations that impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims may result in services not being covered, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Birmingham AL doctors and hospitals multiple thousands of dollars in earnings every year, a proficient medical coder is an important asset for any healthcare team. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for experienced medical coders to working from home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Billing Job Summary
As vital as the medical coder's job is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Birmingham AL healthcare organizations and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the biller and coder may be the same person within a healthcare facility, but they can also be 2 separate professionals. Once the coder has completed her or his job, the biller utilizes the codes furnished to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the applicable entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles and additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Confirm medical insurance benefits for patients and help them with billing questions or concerns
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been denied
- Act as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for proper claim settlement
- Create and manage Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for family practices, but also Birmingham AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in any type of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Education and Certification
It's imperative that you obtain your training from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. While it is not a requirement in most cases to obtain a professional certification, the program you enroll in should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The most expedient way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which usually takes about one year to finish. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for the majority of programs requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not widely offered. After your training has been completed, although not mandated in most states, you might desire to acquire a professional certification. Certification is a great way for those new to the profession to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. Some of the organizations that offer certifications are:
- American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
- Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC).
- The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS).
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Completing an accredited medical billing and coding program, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new vocation and succeed in the fast growing medical care field.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Courses
If you are searching for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding school may be an excellent alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Birmingham AL who anticipate going to school while still working or have other responsibilities that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online colleges are frequently less expensive than the traditional classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online schools are reputable. That's why it's essential to verify that the online program you enroll in is accredited to ensure a quality education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to confirm that any online training you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for example the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to apply yourself to this style of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Schools
Now that you have a general idea just what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what education options are available, you need to start the process of evaluating schools. But since there many training options available at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you should have a prepared list of questions to analyze each one. And when you include all of the online programs that offer medical billing and coding classes, the task can become rather daunting. As we have already addressed, expense and location are going to be important factors, especially if you have a limited budget and will be traveling to classes from your Birmingham residence. And confirming that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's review some of the other questions that you should ask the schools you are considering so that you can analyze each one and make the best choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's essential that the program and college you choose are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the education you receive will be of superior quality, it could help secure future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL healthcare facilities will only employ entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training course. And financial aid and student loans are often only offered for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before choosing a medical coding and billing program, find out what its ranking and reputation are among other colleges. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will mostly be relying on the quality of your education. As we have covered, confirming that the college 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 call a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and find out which colleges they recommend. Keep in mind that even if the college itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Referral Program? Obtaining employment in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new field can be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Check if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is an excellent indication that the billing and coding school has a sizable network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are anticipating driving to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the school will be of significant importance. Naturally if you choose an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first look at those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Medical coding and billing certification courses can vary in cost depending on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenditures also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce a portion of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online college, a portion of these added costs, such as for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Match your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending school and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the college you select offers that alternative. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Selecting the ideal medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to help assure your success in this exciting specialty of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the most rapidly growing careers in the health sector. As a result, there are a lot of vocational schools, community colleges and companies that offer education and training in medical billing and coding. As we have reviewed, you can choose to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also important that the college you choose offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care field. But however you elect to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to evaluate your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding college. And with the proper training, you can accomplish your career goal to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.