How to Find the Right Medical Billing Course near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's essential that you select the appropriate program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you probably know, healthcare is among the fastest growing industries in the United States, and more and more options are offered both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where do you start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools that are within commuting distance of their homes and then comparing tuition. Or they may surf the internet looking for online schools and choose the cheapest one. But while location and cost are important issues when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation must be taken into consideration as well. We will go over a checklist of questions that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are assessing so that you can learn 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 educational and certification options offered.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Training and Certification
It's essential that you get your education from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not a requirement in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the school you choose should be accredited (more on the benefits 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 become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to attain a certificate, which normally takes about one year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more expansive education, which for almost all colleges requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not abundantly offered. Once your education has been completed, although not required in most states, you might want to earn a professional certification. Certification is a great way for those new to the profession to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their career. 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).
Completing an accredited medical billing and coding course, along with attaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coding Job Duties
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to examine the treatment 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 utilized. There are several 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 physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all private payer and government regulations that influence coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, services being paid for at a lower rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Birmingham AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in revenue annually, a reliable medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare team. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to operate at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Summary
As vital as the medical coder's job 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 organizations and are essentially responsible for keeping them in business. Sometimes the biller and coder can be the same person within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 individual specialists. When the coder has performed her or his task, the biller utilizes the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been paid by the applicable entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles and other out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing clerk may also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been declined
- Work as a mediator between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for correct claim settlement
- Produce and manage Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by private practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in any type of healthcare facility that relies on the revenues generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Programs
If you are searching for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes at home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding college may be a good alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Birmingham AL who plan on attending school while continuing to work or have other commitments that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional benefit, online programs are in many cases cheaper than the traditional classroom options. Expenses for such items as tuition, course materials and commuting may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. That's why it's imperative to verify that the online school you enroll in is accredited to ensure a premium education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. 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 style of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online might 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 coder and biller does, in addition to what training options are available, you need to start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous 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 in order to analyze each one. And when you include all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become somewhat formidable. As we have already addressed, cost and location are going to be significant factors, especially if you have a limited budget and will be traveling to classes from your Birmingham residence. And whether or not the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's review a few of the other questions that you should ask the schools you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the best choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's important that the program and college you decide on are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting organization, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the training you get will be of the highest quality, it might help secure future employment as well. A number of Birmingham AL medical facilities will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training course. And financial aid and student loans are often only obtainable for colleges that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical billing and coding school, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other schools. This is especially relevant if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will basically be relying on the quality of your education. As we have addressed, making sure that the college is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. An alternative is to call a few Birmingham AL healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if the college itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Obtaining a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new profession may 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 an excellent indication that the billing and coding school has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can refer 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 driving to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the college will be of prime importance. Of course 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 go to classes at a junior or community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical coding and billing training courses can differ in cost depending on the type of credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenditures also consist of such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to check with the college's financial assistance department to see what is available in Birmingham AL. Naturally if you decide to enroll in an online college, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students continue working while attending college and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only attend classes during the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time schedule, confirm that the program you select offers that alternative. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Select the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Training
Selecting the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a very important first step to help ensure your success in this exciting field of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the fastest growing professions in the health industry. Because of this, there are numerous vocational schools, junior colleges and companies that provide training and instruction in medical coding and billing. As we have reviewed, you can opt to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also essential that the college you pick offers an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care community. But however you choose to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to assess your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the proper training, you can realize your career goal to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.