How to Enroll In the Right Medical Coding Course near Birmingham Alabama
Once 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 choose the right program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the USA, and increasingly more options are offered both online and on campus to receive the training that you need. But just where do you begin? Many aspiring students begin by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and select the cheapest one. But while cost and location are relevant issues when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be considered as well. We will review a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are researching so that you can find out what you need to know prior to making your decision. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options offered.
Medical Coder Job Duties
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to analyze the treatment records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment used. There are various 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 accurate reporting, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer rules that impact coding also. Improperly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, 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 physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in revenue annually, a proficient medical coder is a vital asset to the healthcare organization. They can work in every kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to work at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Description
As crucial as the medical coder's function is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Birmingham AL healthcare organizations and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Sometimes the biller and coder are the same individual within a medical organization, but they can also be two individual professionals. Once the coder has completed her or his task, the biller utilizes the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or additional out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been declined
- Act as a mediator between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for proper claim settlement
- Create and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by private practices, but also Birmingham AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in every kind of healthcare facility that relies on the revenues generated by billing third party payers and patients.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Programs and Certification
It's imperative that you get your education from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Even though it is not a requirement in most cases to attain a professional certification, the school you enroll in should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs simply require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. The fastest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which normally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more comprehensive education, which for most colleges requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical billing and coding are not widely offered. Once your education has been completed, although not required in most states, you may wish to attain a professional certification. Certification is an excellent means for those new to the field to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. Just 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 course, together with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to accelerate your new career and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare industry.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Training
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding college might be an excellent alternative. They can be particularly attractive to those living in Birmingham AL who plan on attending school while still working or have additional responsibilities that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional benefit, online colleges are in many cases cheaper than the conventional classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it's essential to establish that any online college you select is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will cover the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to check that any online classes you are researching 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 mode of learning, then attaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Schools
Once you have a general idea what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what education options are offered, you need to start the process of researching colleges. But since there many training options available at community colleges and technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you need to have a prepared list of questions in order to assess each one. And when you add all of the online schools that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become rather formidable. As we have already covered, location and cost are going to be relevant factors, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham residence. And verifying that the school and program are accredited should be part of your vetting process also. So let's review several of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can evaluate each one and make the right choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's vital that the school and program you select are accredited by a respected accrediting organization, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the training you get will be of superior quality, it could help secure future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL medical organizations will only hire entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial aid and student loans are often only obtainable for schools that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to picking a medical billing and coding college, find out what its ranking and reputation are among other schools. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will basically be relying on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, making sure that the program is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. An alternative is to call a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you may be interested in working for and ask which colleges they suggest. Remember that even when the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Referral Program? Obtaining a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new profession can be challenging without the help of a job assistance program. Ask if the schools 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 coding and billing school has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the college'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 college will be of prime importance. Of course if you select an online medical coding and billing program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for pupils that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first research those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical billing and coding training courses can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the length of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Costs also consist of such items as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce a portion of the expense, so don't forget to check with the college's financial assistance department to see what is available in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? A number of students keep working while attending college and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time schedule, make certain that the college you decide on provides that alternative. Also, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Training
Selecting the right medical billing and coding degree or certificate program is a critical first step to help ensure your success in this exciting specialty of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly expanding occupations in the health sector. As a result, there are a lot of vocational schools, community colleges and companies that furnish training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the school you choose has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare field. But however you decide to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better able to analyze your options and pick the right medical billing and coding school. And with the appropriate education, you can realize your career goal to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.