How to Choose the Right Medical Coding Training Program near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's essential that you choose the right school so that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you may already know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the United States, and increasingly more options are available both on campus and online to receive the training that you need. But just where do you start? A number of aspiring students begin by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then comparing tuition. Or they may search the internet looking for online classes and choose the cheapest one. But while location and cost are relevant factors when making your determination, they should not be the sole ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation should be taken into consideration also. We will review a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding schools you are assessing so that you can learn what you need to know before making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options available.
Medical Coding and Billing Online Instruction and Certification
It's important that you get your training from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not required in many cases to earn a professional certification, the program you select should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of Alabama schools simply require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The fastest way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to attain a certificate, which normally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for most schools requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not widely offered. When your training has been completed, although not mandated in most states, you might want to earn a professional certification. Certification is an excellent way for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their occupation. Just some of the organizations that provide 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical coding and billing course, together with attaining a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new profession and succeed in the fast growing medical care industry.
Medical Coding Job Functions
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL private practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review the treatment records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies used. There are multiple 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 lab and radiology reports. Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accuracy, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding as well. Improperly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a lower rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Birmingham AL physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in earnings each year, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in any kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and urgent care centers. It is not unusual for seasoned medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Summary
As essential as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL healthcare facilities and are literally responsible for keeping them in business. In many cases the biller and coder can be the same individual within a healthcare facility, but they can also be 2 individual professionals. Once the coder has performed her or his duty, the biller utilizes the codes supplied to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been adjusted by the applicable organization, patients can then be billed for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical biller can also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been denied
- Act as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Create and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and deal with unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They can work in every type of medical facility that depends on the incomes generated by billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Training
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online program might be a good alternative. They can be particularly attractive to individuals living in Birmingham AL who plan on going to school while still working or have additional obligations that make going to classes on campus challenging. And as an added benefit, online schools are frequently cheaper than the standard classroom options. Costs for such things as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online schools are reputable. That's why it's important to confirm that any online school you select is accredited to ensure a premium education. We will cover the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to establish that any online college you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this type of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Training Programs
Once you have a better idea what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what education options are available, you must start the process of evaluating schools. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges and technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you need to have a prepared list of questions to analyze each one. And when you add all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become somewhat formidable. As we have already addressed, expense and location are going to be significant issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham residence. And verifying that the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at some of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the best choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's important that the program and school you select are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it might help with your future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL medical facilities will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial aid and student loans are often only available for colleges that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to selecting a medical coding and billing program, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other colleges. This is particularly relevant if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will mostly be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have covered, verifying that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. An alternative is to contact a few Birmingham AL healthcare organizations that you might be interested in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Placement Program? Finding a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new profession can be challenging without the help of a job placement program. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is a good indication that the billing and coding college has a significant network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the college's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the College's Location? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the school will be of significant importance. Naturally if you choose an online medical coding and billing program, then the location of the school will not be a factor. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go to classes at a junior or community college, many require a higher tuition for pupils that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical coding and billing training programs can fluctuate in cost based on the type of credential acquired and the length of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Costs also consist of such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to get in touch with the college's financial assistance department to find out what is offered in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, a portion of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Match your Schedule? Many students keep working while going to school and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are available at those times. If you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you pick offers that alternative. Also, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Selecting the right medical coding and billing certificate or degree course is a critical initial step to help assure your success in this exciting field of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the fastest expanding professions in the medical sector. Because of this, there are many trade schools, junior colleges and other institutions that offer instruction and training in medical billing and coding. As we have reviewed, you can choose to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the school you choose offers an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the healthcare community. But however you decide to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better prepared to evaluate your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the appropriate training, you can accomplish your career goal to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.