How to Choose the Right Medical Biller and Coder Program 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 essential that you choose the appropriate school so that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you probably know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the Country, and more and more options are offered both online and on campus to obtain the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of future students start by looking for colleges that are within commuting distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they might search the internet looking for online schools and go with the cheapest one. But while location and cost are significant factors when making your selection, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account as well. We will review a list of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are assessing in order to learn what you need to know before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options available.
Medical Coding Job Summary
Medical coders are on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL private practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to analyze 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 including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. 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 impact coding as well. Improperly coded claims may result in services not being paid for, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Birmingham AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in revenue each year, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare organization. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers. It is not uncommon for experienced medical coders to work at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Duties
As crucial as the medical coder's function 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 healthcare facilities and are practically responsible for keeping them in business. Sometimes the biller and coder can be the same individual within a medical facility, but they can also be 2 individual specialists. After the coder has performed his or her duty, the biller uses the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been adjusted by the appropriate entity, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or additional out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical biller may 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 those that have been declined
- Function as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim resolution
- Generate and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They may practice in any type of medical facility that depends on the revenues generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Programs and Certification
It's important that you receive your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. Although it is not a requirement in most cases to earn a professional certification, the program you choose should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. The most expedient way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to attain a certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for the majority of schools requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not abundantly available. Once your training has been completed, although not required in most states, you may wish to attain a professional certification. Certification is an effective way for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. A few 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).
Completing an accredited medical coding and billing course, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare field.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Training
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes at home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding course might be an excellent option. They can be particularly attractive to those living in Birmingham AL who anticipate going to school while still working or have additional commitments that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an added benefit, online programs are often cheaper than the standard classroom alternatives. Expenses for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online schools are reputable. For that reason it's imperative to verify that the online school you enroll in is accredited to ensure a premium education. We will cover the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just make sure to confirm that any online classes you are researching 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 mode of learning, then attaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Programs
Once you have a general idea what a medical coder and biller does, along with what training options are offered, you need to start the process of evaluating colleges. But since there many training options offered at community colleges and technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you need to have a ready list of questions in order to assess each one. And when you include all of the online schools that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become rather daunting. As we have already covered, cost and location are going to be significant factors, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be traveling to classes from your Birmingham residence. And whether or not the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's take a look at a few of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are considering so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's essential that the program and college you select are accredited by a respected accrediting organization, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the training you get will be of superior quality, it could help secure future employment as well. Many Birmingham AL healthcare facilities will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training course. And financial assistance and student loans are often only offered for schools that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to selecting a medical billing and coding school, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other schools. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will primarily be relying on the quality of your training. As we have addressed, making sure that the school is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school as well. An alternative is to get in touch with a few Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when the college itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Finding a job in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new profession can be difficult without the help of a job placement program. Find out if the colleges you are looking at 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 college has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School Located? If you are intending on driving to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Obviously if you choose an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to bear in mind is that if you go to classes at a junior or community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first research those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Total Cost? Medical billing and coding certification courses can vary in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenditures also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be available to help reduce a portion of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online school, a portion of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students keep working while going to school and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check that the college you choose provides that alternative. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Enrolling in the right medical billing and coding certificate or degree course is a very important first step to help assure your success in this exciting field of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the fastest growing professions in the health sector. As a result, there are many trade schools, junior colleges and companies that offer education and training in medical billing and coding. As we have covered, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the college you pick offers an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care field. But however you choose to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better able to evaluate your options and select the right medical billing and coding college. And with the appropriate education, you can realize your career goal to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Birmingham Alabama.