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Medical Billing and Coding Training Programs
How to Choose the Right One

medical coding specialist on phone with doctorGetting the proper medical billing and coding training is an important first step to entering this exciting and expanding career in the healthcare industry.  The quickest route to becoming a coder and/or a biller is by earning a Certificate from an accredited school, which takes about a year to complete.  For more extensive training, an Associate’s Degree program will get you there after about 2 years of studies.  Once you have completed your education, although not legally required in most states, you will want to earn your certification.  A certification designation can increase your job opportunities and show employers that you are committed to your new profession.  Certifications are available through the following organizations:

  • American Academy of Professional Coders
  • Board of Medical Specialty Coding and Compliance
  • The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists
  • American Health Information Management Association

Choosing and attending an accredited school and earning your certification are the best ways to ensure your path to success as a medical billing specialist or a medical coding specialist.  So before we delve into how you should compare and analyze your school options in more detail, let’s take a look at what you will be doing as a coder and biller when you start your new career.

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What Does a Medical Coder Do?

patient medical recordsA medical coder is the first link in the billing system for healthcare facilities.  A coder is responsible for reviewing a patient’s medical treatment records and converting all medical services provided, including diagnosis, procedures and any equipment used, into universal codes.  These codes include CPT code (Current Procedural Terminology), ICD code (International Classification of Diseases) and HCPCS code (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding).  Coders review such things as physician and nurse’s notes, lab and radiologic results, and patient charts.  They must not only understand what services were provided for accurate coding, but must also understand and incorporate private payer and government regulations as well.   A good medical coder is an important asset to a healthcare provider because if a claim is improperly coded, the provider may either not be paid for a service provided or potentially can be penalized for improper billing.  Improper coding can cost doctors thousands of dollars in revenue every year.  Medical coders work in every type of healthcare environment, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, and outpatient surgery centers. Some of the more experienced coders are able to work at home as an employee or as a contract worker.

What Does a Medical Biller Do?

health insurance form and medical equipmentMedical billing specialists are very important professionals working within the healthcare industry.  Without these billers, healthcare providers literally could not stay in business.  Some work as both coders and billers, and some specialize in just the billing aspect.   Once the coder has done his or her job, the biller then takes the information or codes provided and use them to create and submit claims to insurance companies.  Once they have been adjusted, often electronically, the patients can subsequently be billed.  On a day to day basis, a medical biller may perform the following duties:

  • Submit claims to insurance companies using medical diagnosis and procedure codes
  • Be a liaison between insurance companies, healthcare providers and the patients to get claims paid properly
  • Verify health insurance coverage and answer patient’s billing questions
  • Following up on claims and appealing those denied
  • Managing collections for unpaid patient accounts
  • Creating and maintaining reports for Accounts Receivables

A medical billing clerk does not just work in a hospital, but rather can work in a private practice, a medical group, a skilled nursing facility, or any healthcare facility that relies on billing its patients for revenue.

Medical Billing and Coding Classes Online

female student taking medical billing and coding classes onlineTaking a medical billing and coding course online can be a good option for those who are looking for flexibility in scheduling as well as easy access.  The online method of education can be a big advantage for those who are working or have family and other obligations to juggle as well.  Plus online schools are sometimes less expensive than traditional options.  Even ancillary expenses, such as commuting and text books can be reduced to some extent.  But one warning, not all online schools are accredited, which is very important for future job placement.  Accreditation signifies that the school or program meets high academic standards, hires quality teachers, and stays current with its syllabus.  So be sure to verify that any online training you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.  If you are disciplined and motivated enough to dedicate yourself to this style of learning, then obtaining your training online may be the right choice for you.

Compare your Medical Billing and Coding Course Options

Now that you know what a medical coder and a biller are and what they do, let’s take a look at a general check list of items you should review for each potential school you are considering to help narrow down your school options.

Is the Billing and Coding Program Accredited?  It is important that the program you choose is accredited by one of the major national accrediting organizations, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools.  Without accreditation, which certifies that the school’s program provides excellent training, you may not receive the proper education that will allow you to pass any of the certification exams.   Attending an accredited school also makes you more marketable and in higher demand by employers once you are ready to begin your new career in the healthcare industry.

Is there a Job Placement Program?  The program you choose should have a successful job placement program for graduating students that has on average both a high and rapid placement rate.  The school should also have relationships with major healthcare networks and facilities in your state as well.

What is the Reputation of the Program?  Be sure to verify that the program you are considering has a solid reputation for success.  Contact some former students (ask the school for references) or even some local practicing billers or coders to find out what their opinion is of the program.  Since you already know to only consider accredited schools, check with the accrediting agency for its input.  The accreditation alone should be enough to guarantee that the program is well qualified.  But a little extra due diligence is always a good idea.

What is the Total Cost of Education?  Medical billing and coding certification programs can vary in cost from state to state and based on the amount of training provided.  Tuition is not the only cost of your education.  Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in your area.  Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as commuting, may be reduced.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule?  If you require certain class hours be available for your class schedule due to work or family obligations, be sure to find out if they are offered.  Also, if you are only free to attend weekend or evening classes, make sure that they are offered as well.

Learn More About Medical Billing and Coding Programs

Choose the Right Medical Billing and Coding Training

Picking the right medical billing and coding program is very important for your success in this exciting field of healthcare.  As we have discussed, you can choose to take your classes either by attending a traditional brick and mortar school in person, or you can take your instructional classes online conveniently in your home.  However you choose to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines, you will be better able to evaluate each school.  And by choosing the right one, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical billing and coding specialist.