How to Select the Best Medical Coding College near Anchorage Alaska
Now that you have made a decision to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Anchorage AK, it's essential that you find the appropriate program so that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the Country, and more and more options are offered both on campus and online to get the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of aspiring students begin by looking for programs that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they might search the internet looking for online schools and go with the cheapest one. But while location and cost are relevant factors when making your selection, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into consideration as well. We will cover a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding courses you are assessing so that you can learn what you must know prior to 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 offered.
Medical Coding and Billing Online Programs and Certification
It's imperative that you receive your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not required in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alaska colleges just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The fastest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which typically takes about a year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for the majority of schools requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. When your training has been concluded, although not mandated in the majority of states, you may want to attain a professional certification. Certification is an effective way for those new to the field 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).
Completing an accredited medical coding and billing course, combined with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new profession and succeed in the fast growing medical care field.
Medical Coding Job Functions
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Anchorage AK 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 equipment or medical supplies utilized. There are several codes that are utilized 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 lab and radiology reports. Medical Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accuracy, but must have a working knowledge of all private payer and government rules that impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims can result in services not being paid for, services being paid for at a lower rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Anchorage AK physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in earnings annually, a good medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare organization. They can work in every type of healthcare facility, including private 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 Duties
As important as the medical coder's job is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Anchorage AK healthcare facilities and are essentially responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the coder and biller may be the same person within a healthcare organization, but they can also be two individual specialists. Once the coder has carried out her or his task, the biller uses the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After they have been paid by the appropriate entity, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical biller might also do any of the following:
- Verify medical insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been denied
- Function as a mediator between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only are employed by private practices, but also Anchorage AK hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They can practice in any kind of medical facility that relies on the revenues generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Colleges
If you are looking for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes at home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online college might be an excellent option. They can be especially attractive to individuals living in Anchorage AK who plan on attending school while continuing to work or have other obligations that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online programs are in many cases cheaper than the standard classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online schools are reputable. That's why it's essential to verify that the online course you enroll in is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will cover the benefits of accreditation in the next segment. Just make sure to confirm that any online school you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this mode of learning, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Courses
Now that you have a general idea just what a medical coder and biller does, in addition to what education options are offered, you must begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there many training options available at community colleges as well as vocational, technical and trade schools within the Anchorage AK area, you should have a prepared list of questions in order to analyze each one. And when you include all of the online colleges that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become somewhat formidable. As we have already discussed, cost and location are going to be important factors, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be traveling to classes from your Anchorage residence. And whether or not the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at some of the other questions that you should ask the colleges you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's vital that the school and program you choose are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the training you receive will be of the highest quality, it might help with your future employment as well. Many Anchorage AK healthcare organizations will only employ entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial aid and student loans are often only offered for colleges that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical coding and billing program, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other colleges. This is particularly imperative if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will mainly be relying on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, verifying that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. Another option is to get in touch with several Anchorage AK medical organizations that you may have an interest in working for and find out which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if the college itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Referral Program? Finding employment in Anchorage AK after graduating in your new profession may be challenging without the help of a job assistance program. Find out if the schools 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 coding and billing college has a substantial network of healthcare employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the college's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are anticipating driving to class from your Anchorage AK home, then the location of the program will be of significant importance. Obviously if you choose an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the college will not be important. One thing to bear in mind is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you may prefer to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Cost? Medical billing and coding certification programs can vary in cost based on the type of credential acquired and the length of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Costs also include such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to get in touch with the college's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Anchorage AK. Naturally if you decide to enroll in an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students continue working while going to school and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes during the evenings or on weekends near Anchorage AK, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time schedule, verify that the program you pick provides that option. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Anchorage AK Medical Billing and Coding School
Choosing the ideal medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a critical initial step to help assure your success in this exciting field of medical care. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly expanding jobs in the medical industry. Because of this, there are many vocational schools, community colleges and companies that offer instruction and training in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can opt to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also important that the college you select offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. But however you choose to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better prepared to assess your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the proper education, you can accomplish your career objective to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Anchorage Alaska.