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Medical Coding and Billing Online Schools Decatur AL

How to Select the Right Medical Billing Training Program near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama female medical biller and coder at her computerOnce you have decided to become part of the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Decatur AL, it's important that you select the right program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States, and more and more options are offered both on campus and online to receive the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of future students start by searching for colleges that are within driving distance of their homes and then comparing tuition. Or they might surf the internet looking for online courses and go with the cheapest one. But while cost and location are relevant issues when making your selection, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation should be taken into consideration also. We will review a list of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating so that you can find out what you must know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the training and certification options available.

Medical Coding and Billing Online Programs and Certification

hundred dollar bills under stethoscope Decatur AlabamaIt's important that you receive your education from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not required in many cases to attain a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of Alabama schools simply require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The most expedient way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to obtain a certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to finish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all schools calls for two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not widely available. When your education has been completed, although not required in the majority of states, you may want to earn 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 committed to their occupation. 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 program, together with attaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new career and succeed in the fast growing healthcare field.

Medical Coder Job Duties

Decatur Alabama patient medical records

Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Decatur AL private practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review 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 equipment or medical supplies used. 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 depend on information from sources such as nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. 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 impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to services not being paid for, 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 Decatur AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in earnings each year, a reliable medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare organization. They can work in every type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to working from home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.

Medical Biller Job Description

Decatur Alabama medical insurance forms

As important as the medical coder's role is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Decatur AL medical organizations and are literally responsible for keeping them in business. Frequently the biller and coder can be the same person within a medical facility, but they can also be two independent specialists. After the coder has carried out her or his task, the biller uses the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the applicable entity, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or other out of pocket costs. On a regular basis, a medical biller can also do any of the following:

  • Check health insurance benefits for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
  • Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been declined
  • Act as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for proper claim resolution
  • Produce and manage Accounts Receivables reports
  • Produce and handle unpaid patient collections accounts

Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Decatur AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, medical groups or nursing homes. They can practice in any type of medical facility that relies on the revenues generated from billing third party payers and patients.

Medical Billing and Coding Online Courses

Decatur Alabama female attending medical biller and coder online coursesIf you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then choosing a medical billing and coding online course might be a good alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Decatur AL who plan on going to school while still working or have additional obligations that make going to classes on campus challenging. And as an additional advantage, online colleges are frequently less expensive than the conventional classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online colleges are reputable. That's why it's essential to confirm that the online school you choose is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will cover the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just make sure to confirm that any online instruction you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this mode of learning, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.

Questions to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Courses

Now that you have a general idea what a medical biller and coder does, as well as what training options are available, you must start the process of researching schools. But since there many training options offered at community colleges and vocational, technical and trade schools within the Decatur AL area, you must have a prepared list of questions in order to assess each one. And when you add all of the online colleges that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become rather daunting. As we have already addressed, expense and location are going to be important issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Decatur home. And verifying that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting process as well. So let's take a look at several of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are considering so that you can analyze each one and make the appropriate choice.

Is the School Accredited? It's crucial that the program and college you select are accredited by a respected accrediting agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the education you get will be of the highest quality, it may help secure future employment as well. A number of Decatur AL healthcare organizations will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training course. And financial assistance and student loans are often only offered for colleges that have received an accreditation.

What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to picking a medical coding and billing program, check out what its reputation and ranking are among other programs. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will primarily be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have addressed, confirming that the program is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, for instance U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school also. An alternative is to contact a few Decatur AL healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which programs they recommend. Remember that even if the college itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.

Is there an Employment Referral Program? Finding a job in Decatur AL after graduating in your new field may be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Ask if the schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is a good indication that the billing and coding college has a significant network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates 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 Decatur AL home, then the location of the school will be of significant importance. Of course if you enroll in an medical billing and coding online program, then the location of the school will not be a factor. One thing to keep in mind is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, most charge a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first research those schools that are within your local area.

What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding certification programs can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the amount of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be available to help offset a portion of the cost, so make sure to check with the college's financial assistance department to find out what is offered in Decatur AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online college, some of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.

Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? A number of students keep working while going to college and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time basis, make certain that the program you decide on offers that alternative. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More on How to Enroll in a Medical Coding Course

Choose the Best Decatur AL Medical Billing and Coding School 

Enrolling in the right medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a very important initial step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding specialty of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the fastest expanding careers in the medical sector. Because of this, there are a lot of trade schools, junior colleges and companies that provide training and instruction in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also important that the college you select offers an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the medical care field. But however you choose to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better prepared to analyze your options and select the right medical billing and coding college. And with the proper training, you can achieve your career objective to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Decatur Alabama.