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Medical Coding and Billing Programs Online Birmingham AL

How to Pick the Right Medical Billing College near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama female medical biller and coder at her computerNow that you have made a decision to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's crucial that you select the right school so that you receive the proper education to guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States, and a growing number of options are available both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of aspiring students begin by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and go with the cheapest one. But while location and cost are relevant factors when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation must be taken into consideration also. We will cover a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are assessing in order to find out what you must know before 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 Coder Job Duties

Birmingham Alabama patient health files

Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL private practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review 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 multiple 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 such as physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accuracy, but must have a functioning knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims may lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a lower rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Birmingham AL doctors and hospitals many thousands of dollars in earnings each year, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare organization. They can work in every type of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers. It is not uncommon for experienced medical coders to working from home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.

Medical Biller Job Functions

Birmingham Alabama health insurance documents

As essential as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL medical organizations and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the biller and coder may be the same individual within a medical facility, but they can also be two individual professionals. When the coder has performed his or her task, the biller uses the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the applicable organization, patients can then be charged for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing professional might also do any of the following:

  • Confirm health insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
  • Check on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been declined
  • Function as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for accurate claim resolution
  • Generate and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
  • Generate and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts

Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in every kind of healthcare facility that relies on the revenues generated from billing patients and third party payers.

Medical Billing and Coding Online Education and Certification

hundred dollar bills under stethoscope Birmingham AlabamaIt's imperative that you receive your training from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. While it is not required in many cases to earn a professional certification, the school you select 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 qualify. The most expedient way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to attain a certificate, which generally takes about one year to finish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more extensive education, which for almost all colleges calls for two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not abundantly offered. After your training has been concluded, although not mandated in the majority of states, you might desire to attain a professional certification. Certification is an effective means for those new to the profession to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their occupation. Some of the organizations that make available 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 vocation and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare field.

Medical Billing and Coding Online Classes

Birmingham Alabama female attending medical biller and coder online coursesIf you are searching for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes at home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding program may be a good alternative. They can be especially appealing to students living in Birmingham AL who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have additional commitments that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online programs are in many cases less expensive than the standard classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, course materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it's imperative to confirm that the online program you select is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will review the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to check that any online school you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this type of learning, then acquiring your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.

What to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Courses

Once you have a general idea just what a medical biller and coder does, in addition to what education options are available, you need to begin the process of comparing schools. But since there many training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you must have a ready list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you include all of the online schools that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become somewhat formidable. As we have already discussed, cost and location are going to be important issues, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham home. And whether or not the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting process as well. So let's review a few of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.

Is the School Accredited? It's crucial that the program and college you pick are accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the training you receive will be of superior quality, it could help secure future employment also. A number of Birmingham AL healthcare organizations will only employ entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training program. And financial assistance and student loans are often only available for programs that have earned an accreditation.

What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to choosing a medical coding and billing program, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other schools. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will primarily be relying on the quality of your training. As we have covered, confirming that the program is accredited is a first 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 check with several Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.

Is there an Employment Placement Program? Finding employment in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new field can be difficult without the help of a job placement program. Check if the colleges you are considering have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A high and rapid placement rate is a good indication that the billing and coding school has a substantial network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also suggests that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.

Where is the School Located? If you are planning on 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 online medical coding and billing program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to remember is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, many charge a higher tuition for enrollees that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.

What is the Total Expense? Medical coding and billing certification programs can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the amount of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also include such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial assistance department to find out what is offered in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, some of these added costs, such as for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.

Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students continue working while going to college and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings 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 program you enroll in offers that option. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family responsibilities.

Find Out More on How to Enroll in a Medical Coding Program

Choose the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding School 

Selecting the ideal medical billing and coding certificate or degree course is a very important initial step to help ensure your success in this rewarding specialty of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the most rapidly expanding professions in the health sector. Because of this, there are a lot of vocational schools, community colleges and other institutions that provide education and training in medical billing and coding. As we have reviewed, you can choose to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the college you select offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care industry. But however you elect to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better able to evaluate your options and pick the right 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.