How to Select the Right Medical Billing and Coding College near Prattville Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Prattville AL, it's essential that you select the right program to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the Country, and more and more options are offered both online and on campus to receive the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of aspiring students start by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they might surf the internet looking for online schools and pick the cheapest one. But while cost and location are significant factors when making your selection, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration also. We will go over a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding courses you are assessing so that you can find out what you need to know before making your decision. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the training and certification options available.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you receive your training from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. While it is not a requirement in most cases to attain a professional certification, the school you enroll in should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most Alabama schools only require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The fastest way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which usually takes about one year to finish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all programs calls for two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not widely offered. When your training has been completed, although not required in most states, you might want to earn a professional certification. Certification is a great means for those new to the profession to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. Just 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 program, combined with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new profession and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coder Job Functions
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Prattville AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. Coders have the responsibility to review the treatment records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services can be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment utilized. 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 depend on information from sources including nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accuracy, but must have a functioning knowledge of all government and private payer rules that affect coding also. Incorrectly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, services being paid at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Prattville AL physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in revenue every year, a good medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare team. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for professional medical coders to operate at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Duties
As vital as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Prattville AL medical facilities and are practically responsible for keeping them in business. Frequently the coder and biller are the same individual within a medical organization, but they can also be two individual professionals. After the coder has performed his or her task, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be charged for deductibles or additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical biller can also do any of the following:
- Verify medical insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been denied
- Act as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Create and manage Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and deal with unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by private practices, but also Prattville AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in every type of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Programs
If you are looking for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online school might be a good option. They can be especially attractive to individuals living in Prattville AL who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have additional commitments that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online colleges are in many cases cheaper than the standard classroom options. Costs for such things as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online programs are reputable. That's why it's imperative to establish that the online program you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will review the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to establish that any online college you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this style of learning, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Programs
Once you have a general idea just what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what education options are offered, you need to start the process of evaluating colleges. But since there are numerous training options offered at community colleges and technical, trade and vocational schools within the Prattville AL area, you need to have a ready list of questions in order to analyze each one. And when you add all of the online schools that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become somewhat formidable. As we have already covered, location and cost are going to be significant issues, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Prattville residence. And confirming that the program and school are accredited must be part of your vetting process also. So let's take a look at a few of the additional questions that you should ask the schools you are looking at so that you can evaluate each one and make the right choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's crucial that the program and college you decide on are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you receive will be of superior quality, it could help with your future employment as well. A number of Prattville AL healthcare organizations will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training course. And financial aid and student loans are frequently only obtainable for colleges that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to choosing a medical billing and coding program, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other programs. This is particularly important 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 discussed, verifying that the school is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, for instance U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school as well. Another option is to check with some Prattville AL healthcare organizations that you might be interested in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Obtaining a job in Prattville AL after graduation in your new field might be difficult without the help of a job assistance program. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is an excellent indication that the billing and coding school has a sizable network of medical care employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the College Located? If you are intending on driving to class from your Prattville AL home, then the location of the college will be of prime importance. Of course if you choose an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to keep in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first research those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Medical billing and coding certification programs can differ in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the length of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also include such items as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce a portion of the cost, so make sure to get in touch with the college's financial aid department to see what is available in Prattville 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 Accommodate your Schedule? A number of students keep working while going to college and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Prattville AL, make sure that they are available at those times. If you can only attend on a part time schedule, confirm that the college you select provides that option. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Prattville AL Medical Billing and Coding Training
Picking the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a very important first step to help guarantee your success in this exciting sector of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the most rapidly expanding careers in the medical industry. Because of this, there are numerous vocational schools, community colleges and companies that provide education and training in medical billing and coding. As we have discussed, you can choose to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the school you select has an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the healthcare field. But however you elect to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better prepared to evaluate your options and pick the ideal 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 Prattville Alabama.