How to Select the Best Medical Billing and Coding Training Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Once you have decided to enter the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Fairbanks AK, it's essential that you select the right program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the Country, and a growing number of options are offered both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where does one begin? Many future students begin by looking for programs that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online schools and choose the least expensive one. But while location and cost are important issues when making your choice, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into consideration also. We will review a list of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are evaluating in order to find out what you must know prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the educational and certification options offered.
Medical Coder Job Summary
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Fairbanks AK private practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to review the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies utilized. There are multiple 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 rely on information from sources including nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. 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 rules that influence coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Fairbanks AK doctors and hospitals many thousands of dollars in earnings every year, a proficient medical coder is an important asset to the healthcare organization. They can operate in any kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Functions
As crucial as the medical coder's job is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Fairbanks AK medical organizations and are practically responsible for keeping them in business. Sometimes the coder and biller may be the same person within a healthcare facility, but they can also be 2 separate professionals. Once the coder has completed her or his duty, the biller utilizes the codes provided to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, 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 routine basis, a medical biller may also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been declined
- Act as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for proper claim resolution
- Create and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Fairbanks AK hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in any kind of healthcare facility that relies on the incomes generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Coding and Billing Online Education and Certification
It's important that you get your training from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not required in many cases to earn a professional certification, the school you choose should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of Alaska schools only require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The fastest way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which typically takes about a year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for most schools requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. When your training has been completed, although not required in most states, you might desire to attain a professional certification. Certification is an excellent way for those new to the field to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their occupation. Some 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 course, along with attaining a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new profession and succeed in the rapid growing medical care field.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Classes
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online course may be a good alternative. They can be particularly attractive to students living in Fairbanks AK who anticipate attending school while continuing to work or have other responsibilities that make going to classes on campus challenging. And as an added benefit, online schools are frequently cheaper than the standard classroom options. Costs for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be reduced or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it's important to confirm that any online program you choose is accredited to ensure a premium education. We will review the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to verify that any online school you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for example the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this mode of learning, then acquiring your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Schools
Now that you have a better idea what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what training options are offered, you need to begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there many training options available at community colleges as well as trade, vocational and technical schools within the Fairbanks AK area, you should have a prepared list of questions in order to assess each one. And when you include all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become somewhat daunting. As we have already discussed, expense and location are going to be significant issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be traveling to classes from your Fairbanks home. And verifying that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting process as well. So let's review some of the additional questions that you should ask the schools you are considering so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's important that the program and college you choose are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it may help with your future employment also. A number of Fairbanks AK healthcare facilities will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding educational program. And financial aid and student loans are often only obtainable for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before picking a medical coding and billing program, check out what its reputation and ranking are among other schools. 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 training. As we have addressed, verifying that the school is accredited is a first step. Checking with school rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. Another option is to check with some Fairbanks AK medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.
Is there a Job Assistance Program? Obtaining a job in Fairbanks AK after graduation in your new profession might be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Find out if the colleges you are considering have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A high and rapid placement rate is an excellent indication that the billing and coding college has a significant network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also indicates that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are planning on commuting to class from your Fairbanks AK home, then the location of the campus will be of prime importance. Obviously if you select an medical billing and coding online program, then the location of the school will not be important. One thing to keep in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical billing and coding certification courses can vary in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also consist of such items as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset a portion of the expense, so be sure to get in touch with the college's financial assistance department to see what is available in Fairbanks AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Match your Schedule? A number of students keep working while attending college and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, verify that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time basis, verify that the college you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Fairbanks AK 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 medical care. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the most rapidly growing professions in the health industry. As a result, there are numerous trade schools, community colleges and companies that offer training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can elect to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the school you pick has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. But however you decide to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to evaluate your options and select the right medical billing and coding program. And with the proper education, you can realize your career objective to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Fairbanks Alaska.