How to Choose the Right Medical Coding School near Fairbanks Alaska
Once you have made a decision to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Fairbanks AK, it's important that you choose the right program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the USA, and more and more options are offered both on campus and online to obtain the training that you need. But just where do you start? Many potential students start by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online courses and go with the least expensive one. But while location and cost are important issues when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation must be considered as well. We will review a checklist of questions that you should ask the medical billing and coding courses you are researching in order to learn what you must know before making your decision. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options available.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Training and Certification
It's imperative that you obtain your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. While it is not a requirement in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the program you choose should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most Alaska schools only require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. The quickest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for most colleges requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical billing and coding are not abundantly available. When your training has been completed, although not required in the majority of states, you might desire to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an excellent method for those new to the field to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated 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).
Completing an accredited medical coding and billing course, together with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new career and succeed in the fast growing healthcare field.
Medical Coder Job Functions
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Fairbanks AK private practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review the treatment records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment utilized. 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 lab and radiology reports. Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accuracy, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims may result in services not being covered, services being paid at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Fairbanks AK doctors and hospitals many thousands of dollars in earnings each year, a good medical coder is an important asset to the healthcare team. They can work in any type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to operate at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Description
As important as the medical coder's function is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Fairbanks AK medical organizations and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the coder and biller can be the same person within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 independent specialists. Once the coder has completed her or his job, the biller utilizes the codes furnished to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the applicable organization, patients can then be billed for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing clerk may also do any of the following:
- Verify health 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
- Work as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for proper claim resolution
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for family practices, but also Fairbanks AK hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They may practice in every kind of healthcare facility that relies on the revenues generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Colleges
If you are searching for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online college may be a good alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Fairbanks AK who anticipate going to school while still working or have additional commitments that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an added benefit, online colleges are in many cases cheaper than the conventional classroom alternatives. Costs for such items 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 imperative to establish that any online course you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will review the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to check that any online instruction you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to commit yourself to this mode of learning, then attaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Programs
Once you have a better idea what a medical coder and biller does, in addition to what education options are available, you must begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there many training options available at community colleges and technical, trade and vocational schools within the Fairbanks AK area, you need to have a ready list of questions to analyze each one. And when you add all of the online colleges that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become somewhat daunting. As we have already covered, expense and location are going to be significant issues, especially if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Fairbanks home. And whether or not the school and program are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's review 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 appropriate choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's important that the school and program you decide on are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you get will be of the highest quality, it may help with your future employment as well. A number of Fairbanks AK medical organizations will only employ entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational course. And financial aid and student loans are often only offered for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before selecting a medical billing and coding college, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other colleges. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will basically be relying on the quality of your training. As we have covered, confirming that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school as well. An alternative is to contact several Fairbanks AK healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when the college itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Placement Program? Obtaining employment in Fairbanks AK after graduating in your new profession can be difficult without the support of a job placement program. Check if the colleges you are reviewing 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 considerable network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College Located? If you are anticipating driving to class from your Fairbanks AK home, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Obviously if you choose an medical billing and coding online program, then the location of the school will not be a factor. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical coding and billing training courses 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 supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce a portion of the expense, so don't forget to check with the college's financial aid department to see what is available in Fairbanks AK. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online school, a portion of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Match your Schedule? A number of students continue working while going to college and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you decide on offers that alternative. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Fairbanks AK Medical Billing and Coding Program
Selecting the ideal medical coding and billing certificate or degree course is a critical initial step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding specialty of medical care. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly growing careers in the medical industry. Because of this, there are numerous trade schools, community colleges and other institutions that provide training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can choose to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the college you pick has an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care community. But however you elect to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better able to assess your options and choose the ideal medical billing and coding program. And with the appropriate training, you can realize your career goal to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Fairbanks Alaska.