How to Select the Right Medical Billing Training Program near Phoenix Arizona
Now that you have made a decision to enter the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Phoenix AZ, it's crucial that you select the right school to ensure that you receive the necessary education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the Country, and a growing number of options are offered both on campus and online to obtain the training that you need. But just where do you begin? Many future students start by searching for programs that are within commuting distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they might search the internet looking for online courses and select the least expensive one. But while cost and location are relevant factors when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation should be taken into account also. We will go over a checklist of questions that you should ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are researching so that you can learn what you need to know before making your selection. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options offered.
Medical Coder Job Description
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Phoenix AZ medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to examine 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 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 such as nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology 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 rules that impact coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can result in services not being paid for, services being paid for at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Phoenix AZ physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in earnings every year, a good medical coder is an important asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for experienced medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Functions
As important as the medical coder's job is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Phoenix AZ healthcare organizations and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Frequently the coder and biller may be the same individual within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 separate professionals. Once the coder has performed her or his duty, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been paid by the applicable entity, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or additional out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical biller can also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal those that have been denied
- Function as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim resolution
- Create and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for family practices, but also Phoenix AZ hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in any type of healthcare facility that relies on the incomes generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you obtain your education from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. Although it is not a requirement in most cases to attain a professional certification, the program you choose should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). The majority of Arizona programs just 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 attain a certificate, which typically takes about a year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for almost all colleges requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not widely offered. After your education has been completed, although not mandated in the majority of states, you might want to earn a professional certification. Certification is an excellent method for those new to the profession to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their career. 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 billing and coding course, together 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 Biller and Coder Programs
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online course may be a good option. They can be particularly attractive to individuals living in Phoenix AZ who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have additional responsibilities that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional benefit, online programs are in many cases less expensive than the standard classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, study materials and commuting may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it's essential to establish that any online program you enroll in is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will review the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just make sure to verify that any online college you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to apply yourself to this mode of learning, then attaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Colleges
Now that you have a general idea what a medical coder and biller does, along with what training options are available, you need to begin the process of researching colleges. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Phoenix AZ area, you should have a ready list of questions to assess each one. And when you add all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become rather daunting. As we have already discussed, cost and location are going to be relevant factors, especially if you have a modest budget and will be traveling to classes from your Phoenix home. And whether or not the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's take a look at several of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can evaluate each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's important that the program and school you pick are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it may help secure future employment as well. A number of Phoenix AZ healthcare organizations will only employ entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding educational course. And financial assistance and student loans are frequently only offered for programs that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical coding and billing school, find out what its ranking and reputation are among other programs. This is particularly imperative if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mostly be relying on the quality of your education. As we have addressed, 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. An alternative is to check with a few Phoenix AZ medical organizations that you might have an interest in working for and find out which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Finding a job in Phoenix AZ after graduation in your new field may be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Find out if the schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A high and rapid placement rate is an excellent indication that the coding and billing college has a considerable network of medical care employers where they can place their graduates. It also suggests that the college's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School Located? If you are planning on driving to class from your Phoenix AZ home, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Obviously if you enroll in an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to bear in mind is that if you go to classes at a junior or community college, many charge a higher tuition for enrollees that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first research those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Medical billing and coding certification courses can differ in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenditures also consist of such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the college's financial aid department to find out what is available in Phoenix AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online college, some of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while going to school and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes during the evenings or on weekends near Phoenix AZ, verify that they are available at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that alternative. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Select the Right Phoenix AZ Medical Billing and Coding School
Enrolling in the right medical billing and coding certificate or degree program is a very important first step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding specialty of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the fastest growing occupations in the medical industry. As a result, there are a lot of trade schools, community colleges and companies that furnish training and instruction in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the school you pick offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care community. But however you elect to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better prepared to assess your options and choose the ideal medical billing and coding college. And with the appropriate training, you can achieve your career objective to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Phoenix Arizona.