How to Find the Right Medical Billing and Coding College 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 important that you find the right school so that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the Country, and more and more options are available both on campus and online to get the training that you need. But just where do you begin? A number of future students start by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then comparing tuition. Or they might search the internet looking for online classes and choose the cheapest one. But while location and cost are important factors when making your choice, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation must be taken into account also. We will review a checklist of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding courses you are evaluating so that you can learn what you need to know before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the academic and certification options offered.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Programs and Certification
It's imperative that you get your education from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Even though it is not a requirement in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Arizona colleges just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The fastest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to obtain a certificate, which normally takes about one year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for most schools calls for 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not widely available. After your training has been concluded, although not required in most states, you may wish to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an excellent means for those new to the profession to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their occupation. Some of the organizations that provide 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, along with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new career and succeed in the rapid growing medical care field.
Medical Coder Job Duties
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 medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies utilized. There are multiple 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 depend on information from sources including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accuracy, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding as well. Inaccurately coded claims may result in services not being paid for, services being paid at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Phoenix AZ physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in income each year, a reliable medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare organization. They can operate in any type of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and urgent care centers. It is not uncommon for professional medical coders to operate at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
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 labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Phoenix AZ medical facilities and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the biller and coder can be the same person within a healthcare organization, but they can also be two separate professionals. After the coder has completed her or his job, the biller uses the codes furnished to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being paid by the applicable organization, patients can then be charged for deductibles or additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing clerk may also do any of the following:
- Check health insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal those that have been denied
- Act as a mediator between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Generate and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for private practices, but also Phoenix AZ hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in every kind of medical facility that relies on the revenues generated by billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Schools
If you are looking for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes from home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding school may be an excellent option. They can be particularly attractive to students living in Phoenix AZ who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have other commitments that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an added benefit, online programs are frequently cheaper than the traditional classroom alternatives. Costs for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be reduced or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. That's why it's imperative to establish that the online course you select is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to check that any online college you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this type of learning, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Training Programs
Once you have a better idea just what a medical biller and coder does, along with what education options are available, you need to begin the process of researching colleges. But since there are numerous 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 in order to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online schools that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become rather formidable. As we have already addressed, expense and location are going to be important factors, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Phoenix home. And verifying that the school and program are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's review a few of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are considering so that you can analyze each one and make the best choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's vital that the school and program 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it may help secure future employment also. A number of Phoenix AZ healthcare organizations will only employ entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only offered for programs that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Prior to choosing a medical coding and billing college, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other schools. This is especially relevant if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mainly be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have covered, confirming that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school also. An alternative is to check with a few Phoenix AZ healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which colleges they suggest. Bear in mind that even if the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Referral Program? Finding a job in Phoenix AZ after graduating in your new field may be challenging without the support of a job assistance program. Ask 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 a good indication that the billing and coding school has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are planning on driving to class from your Phoenix AZ home, then the location of the campus will be of prime importance. Obviously if you enroll in an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the college will not be a factor. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for pupils that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Medical billing and coding certification programs can differ in cost based on the type of credential earned and the amount of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Costs also include such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be available to help offset a portion of the cost, so make sure to get in touch with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Phoenix AZ. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online school, some of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? A number of students continue working while going to college and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Phoenix AZ, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you pick provides that option. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Right Phoenix AZ Medical Billing and Coding Training
Selecting the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate course is a crucial initial step to help assure your success in this rewarding sector of medical care. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly expanding jobs in the health sector. As a result, there are a lot of trade schools, junior colleges and companies that offer training and instruction in medical billing and coding. As we have covered, you can opt to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also imperative that the college you select has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care field. But however you decide to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the right questions, you will be better able to analyze your options and pick the right medical billing and coding school. And with the appropriate training, you can accomplish your career goal to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Phoenix Arizona.