How to Find the Right Medical Billing School 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 appropriate program so that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the USA, and more and more options are offered both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where do you begin? A number of future students begin by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may search the internet looking for online courses and select the cheapest one. But while location and cost are important issues when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation must be considered as well. We will go over a checklist of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding courses you are researching so that you can learn what you must know before making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do.
Medical Coding Job Duties
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to review the medical records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services may be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies 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 use information from sources including nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accurate reporting, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer rules that affect coding as well. Improperly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, services being paid at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Birmingham AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in income annually, a reliable medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare organization. They can work 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 independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Billing Job Description
As important as the medical coder's job is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose labors bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL medical organizations and are essentially responsible for keeping them in business. Frequently the biller and coder can be the same person within a medical facility, but they can also be two separate professionals. Once the coder has completed his or her task, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicare or Medicaid. After being adjusted by the appropriate entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles or other out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal those that have been declined
- Work as an intermediary between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies and the patients for correct claim settlement
- Create and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and deal with 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 work in every kind of medical facility that depends on the revenues generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Courses
If you are interested in convenience and the flexibility of attending classes in your home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding school might be a great option. They can be especially attractive to students living in Birmingham AL who anticipate going to school while still working or have other obligations that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added benefit, online schools are frequently cheaper than the conventional classroom options. Costs for such items as tuition, study materials and commuting may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it's essential to verify that any online program you select is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will review the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to establish that any online instruction you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for instance 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 might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Programs
Once you have a general idea what a medical coder and biller does, in addition to what education options are available, you need to start the process of comparing schools. But since there many training options offered at community colleges as well as trade, vocational and technical schools within the Birmingham AL area, you need to have a prepared list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online schools that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become somewhat daunting. As we have already covered, cost and location are going to be important factors, especially if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham residence. And confirming that the school and program are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at several of the other questions that you should ask the colleges you are looking at so that you can evaluate each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's crucial that the program and college you pick are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it can also receive 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 the highest quality, it may help with your future employment also. A number of Birmingham AL medical facilities will only employ entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding educational program. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only offered for programs that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before picking a medical coding and billing school, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other schools. This is particularly imperative if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mostly be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have addressed, making sure that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school as well. An alternative is to check with some Birmingham AL healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.
Is there a Job Assistance Program? Finding employment in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new profession may be challenging without the support 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 high and rapid placement rate is an excellent indication that the coding and billing school has a considerable network of medical care employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are anticipating driving to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the college will be of significant importance. Naturally if you choose an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be a factor. One thing to remember is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Cost? Medical billing and coding training courses can vary in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the length of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenditures also consist of such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce a portion of the cost, so be sure to check with the college's financial aid department to see what is offered in Birmingham AL. Naturally if you decide to enroll in an online college, a portion of these added costs, such as for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Match your Schedule? Many students continue working while going to school and need a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes during the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time schedule, verify that the program you select provides that alternative. Also, find out 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
Selecting the right medical billing and coding certificate or degree program is a critical initial step to help guarantee your success in this exciting field of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the most rapidly growing careers in the medical sector. Because of this, there are numerous vocational schools, junior colleges and companies that provide training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can choose to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also important that the school you pick offers an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the medical care community. But however you decide to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better able to assess your options and pick the ideal medical billing and coding college. And with the appropriate education, you can achieve your career objective to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.