How to Select the Best Medical Coding Course near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the healthcare field 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 guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the Country, and increasingly more options are available both online and on campus to receive the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of future students start by searching for schools that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they might surf the internet looking for online classes and choose the cheapest one. But while cost and location are important issues when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation should be taken into account also. We will cover a list of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are assessing so that you can find out what you must know prior to making your decision. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options offered.
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 convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for medical, diagnosis 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 as well. Inaccurately coded claims can result in services not being paid for, services being paid at a lower rate, or the provider being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Birmingham AL doctors and hospitals multiple thousands of dollars in income every year, a reliable medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare team. They can work in any kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for professional medical coders to work at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Billing Job Summary
As vital as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the collaboration of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL healthcare organizations and are essentially responsible for keeping their doors open. In many cases the coder and biller can be the same individual within a medical facility, but they can also be two individual professionals. After the coder has performed her or his job, the biller utilizes the codes provided to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the appropriate entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles and additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing clerk may also do any of the following:
- Check health insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been denied
- Function as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim resolution
- Create and manage 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, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in any type of medical facility that relies on the incomes generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you receive your education from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. While it is not a requirement in many cases to attain a professional certification, the program you enroll in should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama colleges simply require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. The fastest way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which usually takes about a year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more extensive education, which for almost all programs requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not widely available. Once your training has been completed, although not required in the majority of states, you might wish to acquire a professional certification. Certification is a great means for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their career. 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).
Completing an accredited medical coding and billing program, in conjunction with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new profession and succeed in the rapid growing medical care field.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Schools
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online college might be a good alternative. They can be especially attractive to those living in Birmingham AL who plan on going to school while still working or have other obligations that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online colleges are in many cases less expensive than the traditional classroom alternatives. Costs for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online colleges are reputable. For that reason it's essential to verify that the online course you select is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will cover the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to establish that any online school you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this style of learning, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Programs
Once you have a better idea just what a medical biller and coder does, as well as what education options are available, you need to start the process of comparing schools. 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 need to have a ready list of questions in order to evaluate 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 covered, cost and location are going to be important issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be traveling 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 several of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can evaluate each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's crucial that the program and college you pick are accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online school, it may also receive 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 might help with your 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 program. And financial assistance and student loans are often only obtainable for schools that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical billing and coding school, find out what its ranking and reputation are among other schools. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will primarily be relying on the quality of your training. As we have discussed, confirming 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 also. Another option is to get in touch with some Birmingham AL medical organizations that you may be interested in working for and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Placement Program? Finding a job in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new profession can be challenging without the support of a job assistance program. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have job placement 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 implies that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College's Location? If you are planning on driving to class from your Birmingham AL residence, then the location of the program will be of prime importance. Obviously if you enroll in an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, many require a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Cost? Medical billing and coding training programs can differ in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also include such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, a portion of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? A number of students continue working while attending 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 enroll on a part-time schedule, verify that the school you select offers that option. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Birmingham AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Choosing the right medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a crucial initial step to help guarantee your success in this exciting specialty of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the fastest expanding jobs in the medical industry. Because of this, there are a lot of vocational schools, community colleges and companies that provide training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can elect to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also essential that the school you pick has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care community. But however you decide to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better prepared to analyze your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the proper education, you can realize your career objective to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Birmingham Alabama.