How to Enroll In the Right Medical Coding College near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL, it's crucial that you choose the appropriate program so that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the USA, and more and more options are offered both on campus and online to get the training that you need. But just where does one begin? Many future students begin by looking for colleges that are within travelling distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online schools and choose the cheapest one. But while location and cost are significant issues when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation must be considered as well. We will review a list of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating in order to find out what you need to know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options available.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you get your training from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. While it is not required in most cases to attain a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama colleges only 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 accomplish. 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 widely available. After your education has been completed, although not mandated in the majority of states, you may wish to attain a professional certification. Certification is an effective way for those new to the profession to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their occupation. A few 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).
Completing an accredited medical coding and billing course, combined with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new career and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coding Job Duties
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. Coders have the responsibility to review the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies used. 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 rely on 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 rules that impact coding as well. Inaccurately coded claims may lead to services not being covered, services being paid at a reduced rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Birmingham AL physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in revenue each year, a good medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare team. They can work in every type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and urgent care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to working from home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Summary
As essential as the medical coder's job is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL medical facilities and are practically responsible for keeping them in business. In many cases the coder and biller are the same man or woman within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 independent specialists. When the coder has completed her or his job, the biller uses the codes furnished 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 and additional out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Verify medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal those that have been declined
- Function as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for proper claim resolution
- Generate and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by private practices, but also Birmingham AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, medical groups or nursing homes. They may practice in any kind of medical facility that relies on the incomes generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Programs
If you are looking for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes in your home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding college may be a good alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Birmingham AL who plan on attending school while still working or have other commitments that make going to classes on campus challenging. And as an added advantage, online colleges are often cheaper than the standard classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, study materials and commuting may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it's important to verify that the online course you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to check that any online classes you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to devote yourself to this style of learning, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Training Programs
Once you have a general idea just what a medical coder and biller does, along with what training options are available, you need to begin the process of researching schools. But since there many training options available at community colleges as well as vocational, technical and trade schools within the Birmingham AL area, you should have a prepared list of questions to assess each one. And when you add all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become rather formidable. As we have already discussed, expense and location are going to be important issues, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham residence. And confirming that the program and school are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's take a look at some of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are looking at so that you can compare each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's vital that the program and college you pick are accredited by a respected accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it might also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the training you receive will be of superior quality, it could help secure future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL medical organizations will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training course. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only obtainable for colleges that have earned an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Prior to selecting a medical coding and billing school, check out what its reputation and ranking are among other colleges. This is particularly imperative if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will mainly be relying on the quality of your training. As we have covered, making sure that the school is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, for instance U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. An alternative is to call several Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which programs they recommend. Remember that even if the school itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Placement Program? Obtaining a job in Birmingham AL after graduating in your new profession can be challenging without the help of a job assistance program. Check if the schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A high and rapid placement rate is an excellent indication that the coding and billing school has a substantial network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the college's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the school will be of significant importance. Naturally if you enroll in an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be important. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Medical billing and coding certification programs can vary in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the length of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenditures also consist of such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance may be available to help offset a portion of the expense, so make sure to contact the college's financial assistance department to find out what is offered in Birmingham AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online college, some of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Match your Schedule? A number of students keep working while going to college and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Selecting the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding field of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the most rapidly expanding jobs in the medical sector. Because of this, there are a lot of trade schools, junior colleges and companies that furnish education and training in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can choose to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also imperative that the school you select offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care field. But however you decide to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and asking the right questions, you will be better prepared to assess your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding program. And with the appropriate education, you can accomplish your career objective to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Birmingham Alabama.