How to Select the Best Medical Billing and Coding School near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's essential that you choose the appropriate program to ensure that you receive the proper education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States, and a growing number of options are offered both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for colleges that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they may search the internet looking for online courses and select the cheapest one. But while location and cost are significant factors when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation must be considered also. We will review a list of questions that you should ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are assessing in order to learn what you must know before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the academic and certification options available.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Training and Certification
It's imperative that you receive your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not required in most cases to obtain a professional certification, the school you enroll in should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). The majority of Alabama programs just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The quickest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to earn a certificate, which typically takes about one year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more expansive education, which for the majority of colleges requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not widely offered. After your training has been concluded, although not mandated in most states, you may wish to acquire a professional certification. Certification is a great way for those new to the field to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their occupation. 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 coding and billing program, in conjunction with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new vocation and succeed in the fast growing medical care field.
Medical Coding Job Description
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL private practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to analyze the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for diagnosis, medical 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 rely on information from sources including nursing and physician 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 working knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding as well. Improperly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, services being paid for at a decreased rate, or the provider being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Birmingham AL hospitals and doctors many thousands of dollars in revenue every year, a good medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to operate at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Billing Job Description
As essential as the medical coder's function is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL medical facilities and are literally responsible for keeping them in business. In many cases the coder and biller are the same person within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 independent specialists. When the coder has performed his or her duty, the biller utilizes the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After being adjusted by the applicable organization, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or additional out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing clerk can also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance benefits for patients and help them with billing questions or concerns
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been declined
- Act as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim resolution
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce 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 practice in any kind of healthcare facility that depends on the revenues generated by billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools
If you are interested in convenience and the flexibility of attending classes at home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online college may be an excellent option. They can be particularly attractive to those living in Birmingham AL who plan on attending school while still working or have other responsibilities that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online programs are frequently less expensive than the conventional classroom options. Costs for such things as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online courses are reputable. That's why it's important to verify that any online course you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to verify that any online instruction you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to commit yourself to this mode of learning, then attaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Training Programs
Once you have a better idea just what a medical biller and coder does, as well as what training options are offered, you must begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges as well as vocational, technical and trade schools within the Birmingham AL area, you must have a prepared list of questions to analyze each one. And when you add all of the online schools that offer medical billing and coding classes, the task can become rather daunting. As we have already covered, expense and location are going to be significant factors, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be commuting to classes from your Birmingham residence. And verifying that the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's take a look at a few of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can evaluate each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's important that the school and program you select are accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you receive will be of superior quality, it could help with your future employment as well. A number of Birmingham AL healthcare facilities will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding educational course. And financial aid and student loans are often only offered for programs that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Prior to selecting a medical coding and billing school, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other schools. This is especially important if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mainly be relying on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, confirming that the college is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, for instance U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. Another option is to check with a few Birmingham AL healthcare organizations that you may have an interest in working for and find out which programs they recommend. Remember that even if the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.
Is there a Job Placement Program? Finding employment in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new field can be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Find out 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 a good indication that the coding and billing college has a substantial network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also implies that the college's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School Located? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the college will be of prime importance. Naturally if you choose an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the college 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 charge a higher tuition for pupils that reside outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical coding and billing certification programs can vary in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the amount of training provided. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also include such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion of these added costs, such as for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Many students continue working while going to college and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time basis, verify that the college you pick offers that option. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Enrolling in the right medical billing and coding certificate or degree course is a crucial first step to help ensure your success in this rewarding sector of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly expanding careers in the health sector. As a result, there are a lot of vocational schools, junior colleges and other institutions that furnish training and instruction in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can opt to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the college you select has an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care industry. But however you choose to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better qualified to analyze your options and pick the ideal medical billing and coding program. And with the appropriate training, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Birmingham Alabama.