How to Select the Best Medical Billing and Coding Program near Prattville Alabama
Once you have decided to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Prattville AL, it's important that you choose the appropriate school to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the United States, and increasingly more options are available both online and on campus to receive the training that you need. But just where do you start? A number of future students start by looking for colleges that are within travelling distance of their homes and then comparing tuition. Or they might search the internet looking for online schools and pick the least expensive one. But while location and cost are important issues when making your choice, they should not be the sole ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation should be taken into account also. We will review a list of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are researching in order to find out what you need to know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the educational and certification options available.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Education and Certification
It's important that you receive your training from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. Even though it is not a requirement in most cases to earn a professional certification, the program you select should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs only require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The most expedient way to becoming either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to obtain a certificate, which normally takes about one year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for most programs requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical billing and coding are not widely available. After your training has been concluded, although not required in most states, you might desire to attain a professional certification. Certification is a great 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical coding and billing program, combined with attaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new profession and succeed in the fast growing healthcare field.
Medical Coding Job Duties
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Prattville AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to examine 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 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 rely on information from sources including nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all private payer and government regulations that affect coding as well. Improperly coded claims may lead to services not being paid for, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Prattville AL hospitals and doctors many thousands of dollars in earnings every year, a good medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare team. They can work in every kind of healthcare facility, including family practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not unusual for professional medical coders to working from home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Duties
As essential as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Prattville AL medical facilities and are essentially responsible for keeping them in business. Frequently the biller and coder can be the same man or woman within a healthcare facility, but they can also be 2 individual professionals. After the coder has performed his or her duty, the biller utilizes the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been adjusted by the applicable entity, patients can then be charged for deductibles or other out of pocket costs. On a regular basis, a medical biller might also do any of the following:
- Confirm 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 denied
- Work as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Create and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and deal with unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by private practices, but also Prattville AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in any type of medical facility that relies on the revenues generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Colleges
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes at home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding college may be a great alternative. They can be especially appealing to students living in Prattville AL who anticipate attending school while still working or have other responsibilities that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online colleges are often cheaper than the standard classroom options. Costs for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online colleges are reputable. For that reason it's imperative to confirm that any online college you select is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will cover the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to verify that any online school you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this style of learning, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Courses
Once you have a general idea just what a medical biller and coder does, as well as what education options are offered, you must start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous training options available at community colleges as well as vocational, technical and trade schools within the Prattville AL area, you must have a ready list of questions to assess each one. And when you include all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become rather daunting. As we have already addressed, expense and location are going to be important issues, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Prattville residence. And verifying that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at a few of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can compare each one and make the best choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's vital that the program and college you pick are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, 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 education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it might help with your future employment as well. A number of Prattville AL healthcare organizations will only employ entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training course. And financial aid and student loans are frequently only offered for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical billing and coding school, find out what its reputation and ranking are among other colleges. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will mostly be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, verifying that the program is accredited is a first step. Checking with school rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. An alternative is to check with a few Prattville AL medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and find out which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if the college itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Placement Program? Obtaining employment in Prattville AL after graduation in your new field might be challenging without the help of a job assistance program. Check 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 college has a considerable network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also indicates that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the College Located? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Prattville AL residence, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Naturally if you select an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the college will not be important. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go to classes at a junior or community college, most require a higher tuition for enrollees that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding certification programs can fluctuate in cost based on the type of credential earned and the length 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 might be accessible to help offset a portion of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial assistance department to find out what is available in Prattville 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 Offered that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending school and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Prattville AL, make sure that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time schedule, confirm that the college you select provides that alternative. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Prattville 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 rewarding specialty of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the most rapidly expanding professions in the health sector. As a result, there are numerous trade schools, junior colleges and other institutions that offer training and instruction in medical billing and coding. As we have covered, you can choose to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also essential that the college you choose has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. But however you decide to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better prepared to evaluate your options and pick the right medical billing and coding school. And with the proper education, you can realize your career objective to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Prattville Alabama.