Medical Biller and Coder Courses
How to Enroll In the Right One Near Birmingham Alabama
Picking the right medical billing and coding school near Birmingham AL is an important first step to getting the necessary training that will help launch your career as a biller or coder in the the highly rewarding field of healthcare. Increasingly, more options are being offered, both online and on campus, to obtain the training that you need since healthcare is one of the most rapidly growing segments of the US economy. But just where do you begin? When looking for medical billing and coding schools, the majority of students start by zeroing in on the ones that are closest to their homes with the cheapest tuition. Or they may look for classes that are offered online instead, and again focus on those that have the lowest tuition. However, a school is not always the right option simply because it happens to have a campus near your home or is lower in cost. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation should be taken into consideration as well. We will go over a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding courses you are assessing so that you can find out what you need to know before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the academic and certification options offered.
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Medical Coder Job Description
Medical coders are on the front line of the billing systems for Birmingham AL medical practices and healthcare organizations. Coders have the responsibility to review the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies utilized. There are several codes that are used in the conversion, including:
- CPT codes (Current Procedural Terminology).
- ICD codes (International Classification of Diseases).
- HCPCS codes (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding).
Medical coders use information from sources such as physician and nursing 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 working knowledge of all government and private payer rules that influence coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can result in services not being covered, services being paid at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Birmingham AL doctors and hospitals many thousands of dollars in revenue annually, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in any kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers. It is not uncommon for professional medical coders to operate at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Description
As crucial as the medical coder's function is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Birmingham AL healthcare organizations and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Sometimes the coder and biller are the same person within a medical organization, but they can also be two independent specialists. After the coder has carried out her or his duty, the biller utilizes the codes furnished to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the applicable entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles and other 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
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been declined
- Work as a mediator between the healthcare provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Produce and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for private practices, but also Birmingham AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They can practice in any kind of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Medical Coding and Billing Instruction and Certification
It's imperative that you obtain your training from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. Even though it is not required in most cases to attain a professional certification, the program you enroll in should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most schools simply require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. The most expedient way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to obtain a certificate, which generally takes about one year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all programs calls for 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not widely offered. Once your education has been completed, although not required in the majority of states, you may wish to attain a professional certification. Certification is an effective method for those new to the profession to show prospective Birmingham AL employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their career. 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 billing and coding course, along with attaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to accelerate your new career and succeed in the fast growing Birmingham AL medical care industry.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Courses
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then enrolling in a medical billing and coding online program may be a good option. They can be particularly attractive to those living in Birmingham AL who plan on going to school while continuing to work or have other obligations that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online colleges are in many cases cheaper than the traditional classroom options. Expenses for such items as tuition, course materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it's essential to confirm that the online school you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to check that any online training you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for example 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.
What to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Programs
Now that you have a better idea just what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what training options are available, you must begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Birmingham AL area, you should have a prepared list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online programs that offer medical billing and coding classes, the task can become rather formidable. As we have already covered, location and cost are going to be relevant factors, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Birmingham residence. And verifying that the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's review several of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are looking at so that you can analyze each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's crucial that the program and college you decide on are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it may 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 could help with your future employment also. A number of Birmingham AL medical facilities will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding educational course. And financial aid and student loans are often only available for colleges that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before enrolling in a medical coding and billing college, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other programs. This is particularly imperative if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will mainly be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have covered, confirming that the school is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school as well. An alternative is to check with several Birmingham AL medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and ask which colleges they suggest. Bear in mind that even when the college itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Placement Program? Finding employment in Birmingham AL after graduation in your new field might be challenging without the help of a job placement 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 coding and billing school has a significant 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 School's Location? If you are anticipating driving to class from your Birmingham AL home, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Naturally if you select 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 students that live outside of their districts. So you may prefer to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding training courses can vary in cost depending on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training provided. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenditures also include such items as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset a portion of the cost, so be sure to get in touch with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Birmingham AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion of these added costs, such as for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending school and need a flexible class schedule. If you can only attend classes during the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time schedule, verify that the school you decide on offers that option. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham Medical Billing and Coding School
Selecting the ideal medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a critical initial step to help ensure your success in this exciting specialty of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the fastest growing careers in the medical sector. As a result, there are a lot of vocational schools, junior colleges and other institutions that offer education and training 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 select has an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the healthcare industry. But however you choose to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to analyze your options and choose the right medical billing and coding program. And with the proper training, you can realize your career objective to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Birmingham AL.