How to Select the Right Medical Billing and Coding Training Program near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's crucial that you choose the right school to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Country, and increasingly more options are available both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where do you start? Many future students start 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 select the least expensive one. But while location and cost are relevant issues when making your choice, they should not be the sole ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account also. We will cover a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are researching in order to learn what you must know before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the educational and certification options available.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Education and Certification
It's imperative that you get your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. Even though it is not required in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the program you enroll in should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama colleges just require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The fastest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which typically takes about a year to finish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more expansive education, which for almost all programs requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not abundantly offered. When your education has been concluded, although not required in most states, you might desire to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an excellent method for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their occupation. Just 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical billing and coding course, in conjunction with obtaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new career and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coding Job Duties
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 equipment or medical supplies utilized. There are various 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 including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that influence coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can result in services not being paid for, services being paid for at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Birmingham AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in revenue annually, a proficient medical coder is an important asset to the healthcare team. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to operate at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Description
As essential 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 organizations and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the biller and coder can be the same individual within a healthcare facility, but they can also be two separate specialists. Once the coder has completed his or her task, the biller uses the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been paid by the applicable entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles or additional out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical biller might also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been denied
- Work as an intermediary between the healthcare provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Generate and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only are employed by family practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They may practice in every type of medical facility that depends on the revenues generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Courses
If you are searching for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in an online medical billing and coding college may be a great alternative. They can be particularly appealing to those living in Birmingham AL who plan on attending school while continuing to work or have other obligations that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online programs are in many cases cheaper than the conventional classroom options. Expenses for such things 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 essential to establish that the online program you choose is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to establish that any online classes you are researching 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 style of learning, then attaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Training Programs
Now that you have a better idea just what a medical biller and coder does, in addition to what training options are available, you must begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous training options offered at community colleges and trade, vocational and technical 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 daunting. As we have already addressed, cost and location are going to be important issues, especially if you have a modest budget and will be traveling to classes from your Birmingham home. And whether or not the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at several of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are reviewing so that you can compare each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's important that the program and school you pick are accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it might 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 training you receive will be of superior quality, it could help with your future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL healthcare facilities will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training course. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only available for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before selecting a medical billing and coding school, check out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other programs. This is especially imperative 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 school is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school as well. Another option is to check with a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and ask which programs they suggest. Keep in mind that even if the college itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Finding a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new field might be challenging without the support 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 rapid and high placement rate is a good indication that the coding and billing college has a significant network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are planning on commuting to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the college will be of prime 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 keep in mind is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, many require a higher tuition for pupils that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical billing and coding certification courses can differ in cost based on the type of credential acquired and the amount of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenditures also include such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Birmingham AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online college, a portion of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit 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 sure that the school you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Enrolling in the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a crucial initial step to help ensure your success in this rewarding specialty of medical care. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly growing professions in the health industry. As a result, there are many trade schools, junior colleges and other institutions that provide training and education in medical billing and coding. As we have covered, you can choose to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also important that the school you select offers an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care field. But however you elect to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better able to assess your options and pick the right medical billing and coding school. And with the appropriate education, you can realize your career goal to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Birmingham Alabama.