How to Choose the Right Medical Coding School near Dothan Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Dothan AL, it's crucial that you find the right school to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States, and a growing number of options are offered both on campus and online to receive the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of future students begin by looking for schools that are within travelling distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they might surf the internet looking for online courses and select the cheapest one. But while cost and location are relevant factors when making your determination, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as reputation and accreditation must be considered as well. We will go over a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding courses you are researching so that you can learn 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 educational and certification options available.
Medical Coding and Billing Online Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you receive your education from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. While it is not a requirement in most cases to attain a professional certification, the program you choose should be accredited (more on the benefits 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 quickest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to obtain a certificate, which typically takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all colleges requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not widely available. When your education has been completed, although not required in most states, you may desire to acquire a professional certification. Certification is a great method for those new to the profession to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their occupation. 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical coding and billing course, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new profession and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coder Job Description
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Dothan AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to review 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 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 use information from sources such as 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 working knowledge of all private payer and government regulations that impact coding also. Improperly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Dothan AL physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in earnings annually, a reliable medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare team. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including family practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not unusual for seasoned medical coders to operate at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Duties
As important as the medical coder's function is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Dothan AL healthcare organizations and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Sometimes the biller and coder can be the same person within a healthcare organization, but they can also be 2 individual professionals. When the coder has performed his or her job, the biller uses the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being 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 clerk might also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
- Check on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been declined
- Function as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Generate and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for family practices, but also Dothan AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in every kind of healthcare facility that depends on the revenues generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Programs
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online school may be a great alternative. They can be especially appealing to students living in Dothan AL who plan on going to school while continuing to work or have additional responsibilities that make going to classes on campus challenging. And as an added benefit, online schools are in many cases less expensive than the standard classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, study materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online colleges are reputable. For that reason it's imperative to establish that the online program you select is accredited to guarantee a premium education. We will cover the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to check that any online instruction 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 commit yourself to this mode of learning, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Programs
Once you have a general idea what a medical biller and coder does, along with what training options are available, you need to begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there a large number of training options available at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Dothan AL area, you should have a ready list of questions to analyze each one. And when you include all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become rather formidable. 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 Dothan residence. And whether or not the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting process also. So let's review some of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are looking at so that you can evaluate each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's essential that the program and college you select are accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the education you receive will be of superior quality, it may help with your future employment also. A number of Dothan AL medical 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 programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before enrolling in a medical billing and coding school, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other programs. This is particularly relevant if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mainly be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have covered, making sure that the school is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. An alternative is to check with some Dothan AL medical organizations that you might have an interest in working for and find out which colleges they recommend. Bear in mind that even if the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there a Job Placement Program? Finding employment in Dothan AL after graduating in your new profession can be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Ask if the schools 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 significant network of medical care employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the College Located? If you are planning on driving to class from your Dothan AL home, then the location of the program will be of significant importance. Of course if you select an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the college will not be a factor. One thing to remember is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding training courses can vary in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the amount of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenditures also consist of such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to get in touch with the college's financial assistance department to find out what is available in Dothan AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending school and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Dothan AL, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, check that the school you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Dothan AL Medical Billing and Coding Training
Selecting the right medical billing and coding certificate or degree course is a critical initial step to help assure your success in this exciting sector of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the most rapidly expanding professions in the health sector. Because of this, there are a lot of vocational schools, junior colleges and other institutions that offer training and instruction in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can elect to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the college you choose offers an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the healthcare community. But however you choose to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to analyze your options and select the right medical billing and coding school. And with the proper education, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Dothan Alabama.