How to Enroll In the Right Medical Billing School near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided to become part of the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's essential that you choose the right program so that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the Country, and more and more options are available both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where does one start? Many future students start by looking for schools that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online schools and choose the least expensive one. But while cost and location are significant factors when making your choice, they should not be the only ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation should be considered as well. We will cover a list of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding courses you are evaluating so that you can learn what you must know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the educational and certification options available.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Instruction and Certification
It's important that you get 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 program you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs simply require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The fastest way to becoming either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to attain a certificate, which normally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more extensive education, which for the majority of colleges requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical billing and coding are not widely offered. After your education has been completed, although not required in the majority of states, you may desire to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an effective means for those new to the profession to show potential 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical billing and coding course, together with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing medical care field.
Medical Coder Job Summary
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Birmingham AL private practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to examine the medical records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services can 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 use information from sources such as physician and nursing 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 private payer and government regulations that impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, services being paid at a lower rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Birmingham AL doctors and hospitals many thousands of dollars in income annually, a reliable medical coder is a vital asset to the healthcare team. They can work in any kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers. It is not unusual for professional medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Duties
As vital as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL medical organizations and are essentially responsible for keeping their doors open. Sometimes the coder and biller are the same individual within a medical facility, but they can also be 2 separate specialists. After the coder has completed his or her task, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After they have been adjusted by the appropriate entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles and other out of pocket costs. On a regular basis, a medical billing professional might also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been denied
- Function as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for private practices, but also Birmingham AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may practice in every type of medical facility that relies on the incomes generated by billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Colleges
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then choosing a medical billing and coding online college might be an excellent alternative. They can be especially attractive 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 challenging. And as an additional advantage, online programs are often less expensive than the conventional classroom options. Expenses for such items as tuition, course materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it's imperative to confirm that any online school you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to check that any online classes you are looking at 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 type of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Schools
Now that you have a better idea what a medical biller and coder does, in addition to what training options are available, you need to start the process of researching colleges. But since there are numerous 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 in order to assess each one. And when you add all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become rather formidable. As we have already addressed, location and cost are going to be relevant issues, particularly 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 procedure as well. So let's review a few of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are considering so that you can evaluate each one and make the best choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's vital that the school and program you select are accredited by a respected 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 confirm that the training you get will be of superior quality, it may help secure future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL healthcare organizations will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training course. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only available for colleges that have earned an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before choosing a medical coding and billing program, check out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other programs. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mainly be relying on the quality of your training. As we have discussed, verifying that the college is accredited is a first 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 get in touch with a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you may have an interest in working for and ask which programs they recommend. Keep in mind that even if the school itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there a Job Assistance Program? Obtaining a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new profession may be difficult without the help of a job placement program. Ask if the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is an excellent indication that the coding and billing school has a substantial network of medical care employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the college's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are anticipating commuting to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the college will be of significant 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 attend classes at a junior or community college, many charge a higher tuition for enrollees that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first research those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical billing and coding training programs can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also consist of such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset a portion of the expense, so make sure to get in touch with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, a portion of these additional costs, such as for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Match your Schedule? Many students continue working while going to school and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time schedule, make sure that the school you decide on offers that alternative. Also, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Enrolling in the right medical billing and coding certificate or degree program is a very important first step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding field of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the fastest expanding occupations in the medical industry. As a result, there are many trade schools, community colleges and companies that offer training and instruction in medical billing and coding. As we have reviewed, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the school you pick has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. But however you decide to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better able to assess your options and choose the ideal medical billing and coding program. And with the appropriate training, you can realize your career objective to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Birmingham Alabama.