How to Select the Best Medical Coding College 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 crucial that you select the right program to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the USA, and increasingly more options are available both on campus and online to receive the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of aspiring students start by looking for colleges that are within travelling distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may search the internet looking for online schools and go with the least expensive one. But while location and cost are important issues when making your selection, they should not be the sole ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration as well. We will review a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding courses you are evaluating in order to find out what you need to know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the educational and certification options available.
Medical Coding Job Duties
Medical coders are on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to examine the treatment records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment utilized. 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 use information from sources including physician and nursing 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 functioning knowledge of all private payer and government regulations that affect coding as well. Inaccurately coded claims can result in 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 literally cost Birmingham AL physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in income annually, a proficient medical coder is an important asset to the healthcare team. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to working from home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Functions
As crucial as the medical coder's job is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL medical facilities and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Sometimes the biller and coder may be the same individual within a healthcare organization, but they can also be two separate specialists. After the coder has carried out her or his job, the biller utilizes the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been adjusted by the applicable entity, patients can then be charged for deductibles or additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing clerk can also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
- Check on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been denied
- Act as a mediator between the healthcare provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for correct claim settlement
- Generate and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only are employed by family practices, but also Birmingham AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, medical groups or nursing homes. They can practice in any kind of healthcare facility that depends on the revenues generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Training and Certification
It's important that you get your training from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. While it is not a requirement in many cases to earn a professional certification, the school you choose should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of Alabama colleges simply require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The quickest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to attain a certificate, which typically takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all programs requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. When your training has been concluded, although not required in the majority of states, you might wish to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an effective method for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. A few 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical billing and coding program, in conjunction with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare industry.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools
If you are searching for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes at home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding course might be an excellent alternative. They can be particularly appealing 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 advantage, online colleges are in many cases less expensive than the standard classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, course materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it's important to verify that the online college you choose is accredited to ensure a quality education. We will review the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to check that any online school you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this type of learning, then attaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Training Programs
Now that you have a general idea what a medical biller and coder does, along with what education options are available, you must begin the process of researching colleges. But since there are numerous training options offered at community colleges and vocational, technical and trade schools within the Birmingham AL area, you need to have a prepared list of questions to analyze each one. And when you include all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become somewhat daunting. As we have already discussed, expense and location are going to be important issues, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be traveling to classes from your Birmingham home. And whether or not the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's take a look at some of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are considering so that you can compare each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's crucial that the school and program you choose are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online school, it might 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 education you get will be of superior quality, it may 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 billing and coding educational program. And financial assistance and student loans are often only obtainable for colleges that have earned an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before choosing a medical billing and coding school, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other programs. This is especially relevant if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will mostly be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have covered, making sure that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college 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 a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you may have an interest in working for and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if the college itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Referral Program? Obtaining a job in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new profession may be difficult without the help of a job placement program. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have job placement 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 sizable network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the college's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College Located? If you are anticipating commuting to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the campus will be of significant importance. Of course if you enroll in an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be a factor. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, many charge a higher tuition for pupils that live outside of their districts. So you may prefer to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Cost? Medical coding and billing training courses can differ in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the amount of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenditures also consist of such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce a portion of the expense, so be sure to check with the college's financial assistance department to find out what is available 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 minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students continue working while attending school and need a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time schedule, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Select the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Selecting the right medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a very important initial step to help assure your success in this exciting specialty of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the fastest growing occupations in the medical sector. As a result, there are many vocational schools, junior colleges and companies that offer training and instruction in medical billing and coding. As we have discussed, you can elect to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also important that the college you choose has an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the healthcare industry. But however you choose to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the right questions, you will be better qualified to evaluate your options and choose the right medical billing and coding college. And with the proper training, you can achieve your career objective to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Birmingham Alabama.