How to Find the Right Medical Billing and Coding Program near Birmingham Alabama
Now 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 essential that you find the appropriate school so that you receive the proper education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the USA, and increasingly more options are available both on campus and online to get the training that you need. But just where do you start? A number of aspiring students begin by looking for programs that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they may search the internet looking for online classes and choose the least expensive one. But while location and cost are significant factors when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will cover a list of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating so that you can find out what you must 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 Coder Job Summary
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to examine the treatment records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services may be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment utilized. There are several 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 such as nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accuracy, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer rules that influence coding as well. Improperly coded claims can result in 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 literally cost Birmingham AL doctors and hospitals multiple thousands of dollars in income annually, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare organization. They can work in any type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not unusual for professional medical coders to working from home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Duties
As essential as the medical coder's role is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Birmingham AL medical organizations and are essentially responsible for keeping their doors open. Frequently the biller and coder can be the same person within a healthcare facility, but they can also be two individual specialists. After the coder has carried out his or her task, the biller uses the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After they have been 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 clerk might also do any of the following:
- Check health insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Check on patient claims submitted and appeal those that have been declined
- Act as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for proper claim resolution
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only are employed by private practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They can work in any type of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you obtain your training from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. Although it is not a requirement in many cases to attain a professional certification, the program 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 most expedient way to becoming either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to attain a certificate, which generally takes about one year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for most programs calls for 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical billing and coding are not abundantly offered. When your training has been completed, although not mandated in most states, you may wish to earn a professional certification. Certification is an excellent method for those new to the profession to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical billing and coding program, along with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare industry.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in an online medical billing and coding course may be a great option. They can be especially appealing to individuals living in Birmingham AL who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have additional commitments that make attending classes on campus challenging. And as an added benefit, online programs are frequently less expensive than the traditional classroom alternatives. Expenses for such items as tuition, study materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. That's why it's essential to verify that any online college you choose is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to establish that any online college 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 apply yourself to this style of learning, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Schools
Once you have a general idea what a medical biller and coder does, in addition to what education options are offered, you must begin the process of researching colleges. But since there many training options offered at community colleges and trade, vocational and technical schools within the Birmingham AL area, you must have a ready list of questions in order to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become rather formidable. As we have already discussed, location and cost are going to be relevant factors, especially if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham home. And verifying that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting process also. So let's take a look at some of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are considering so that you can evaluate each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's essential that the program and college you select are accredited by a respected accrediting agency, 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 online or distance learning. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the training you receive will be of superior quality, it may help secure future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL healthcare facilities will only employ entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial assistance and student loans are frequently only offered for colleges that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical billing and coding program, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other colleges. This is particularly relevant if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will primarily be relying on the quality of your education. As we have covered, confirming that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school as well. Another option is to contact a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might have an interest in working for and find out which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if the college itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Finding employment in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new field can be challenging without the help 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 a good indication that the coding and billing school has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are intending on driving to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the campus will be of prime importance. Obviously 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 remember 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 may want to first research those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Medical coding and billing certification programs can differ in cost depending on the type of credential obtained and the length of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenditures also include such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce a portion of the expense, so don't forget to get in touch with the college's financial aid department to see what is available in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Match your Schedule? A number of students continue working while going to college and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Enrolling in the ideal medical billing and coding certificate or degree program is a crucial initial step to help assure your success in this rewarding field of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the fastest expanding jobs in the medical industry. As a result, there are a lot of trade schools, community colleges and other institutions that offer 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 essential that the school you pick has an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the medical care field. But however you decide to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better able to assess your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding program. And with the proper training, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.