How to Select the Right Medical Billing College near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to become part of 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 ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the United States, and increasingly more options are available both on campus and online to obtain the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of future students begin by looking for colleges that are within travelling distance of their homes and then comparing tuition. Or they may search the internet looking for online schools and pick the least expensive one. But while location and cost are significant issues when making your choice, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation must be taken into account as well. We will go over a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding schools you are researching so that you can find out what you must know before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the training and certification options available.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Instruction and Certification
It's essential that you receive your training from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. While it is not required in many cases to earn a professional certification, the school you enroll in should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of Alabama programs just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. The quickest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to obtain a certificate, which normally takes about a year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for most programs calls for two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. Once your education has been completed, although not required in the majority of states, you might desire to acquire 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 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 course, combined with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new vocation and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coding Job Functions
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review 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 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 physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology 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 rules that influence coding also. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to 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 actually cost Birmingham AL physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in earnings every year, a proficient medical coder is an important asset to the healthcare team. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including family practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Functions
As essential as the medical coder's job is, it would be for naught without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL healthcare organizations and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the biller and coder may be the same man or woman within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 independent professionals. When the coder has performed her or his duty, the biller uses the codes supplied to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be billed for deductibles and additional out of pocket costs. On a regular basis, a medical billing professional can also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been denied
- Work as a mediator between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for accurate claim resolution
- Produce and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for family practices, but also Birmingham AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may practice in any type of healthcare facility that depends on the revenues generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Training
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then selecting a medical billing and coding online college may be a great option. They can be particularly appealing to students living in Birmingham AL who plan on attending school while still working or have other obligations that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online colleges are frequently cheaper than the standard classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online schools are reputable. For that reason it's important to verify that any online school you select is accredited to guarantee a premium education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to check that any online college you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for example 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 right choice for you.
Points to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Schools
Once you have a better idea just what a medical coder and biller does, in addition to what training options are offered, you must start the process of comparing colleges. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you should have a prepared list of questions to assess each one. And when you include all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become somewhat formidable. As we have already discussed, location and cost are going to be important issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be commuting to classes from your Birmingham residence. And verifying that the program and school are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at a few of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are considering so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's vital that the program and school you pick are accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the education you get will be of superior quality, it could help secure future employment also. A number of Birmingham AL healthcare organizations will only hire entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training program. And financial assistance and student loans are in many cases only available for programs that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to choosing a medical billing and coding college, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other schools. This is particularly 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 discussed, confirming that the program is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school as well. Another option is to call several Birmingham AL medical organizations that you may have an interest in working for and find out which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Placement Program? Finding employment in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new profession may be difficult 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 rapid and high placement rate is an excellent 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 School's Location? If you are anticipating driving to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Of course if you select an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the college will not be important. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, many charge a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Cost? Medical billing and coding certification courses can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the length of training provided. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Costs also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the college's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? A number of students continue working while attending college and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time schedule, verify that the school you decide on offers that alternative. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Selecting the ideal medical coding and billing degree or certificate course is a critical initial step to help assure your success in this rewarding field of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the fastest expanding careers in the health industry. Because of this, there are numerous vocational schools, community colleges and companies that furnish instruction and training in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can choose to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the college you pick has an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care field. But however you choose 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 choose the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the appropriate education, you can accomplish your career goal to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Birmingham Alabama.