How to Pick the Right Medical Billing and Coding Training Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Now that you have made a decision to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Fairbanks AK, it’s crucial that you choose the appropriate program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the Country, and more and more options are available both online and on campus to obtain the training that you need. But just where do you begin? A number of future students start by searching for programs that are within commuting distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and go with the cheapest one. But while cost and location are important issues when making your choice, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into account as well. We will review a checklist of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding schools you are researching in order to learn what you need to know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let’s take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the educational and certification options offered.
Medical Coder Job Functions
Medical coders are on the front line of the billing systems for Fairbanks AK medical practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to analyze the treatment records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services can be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies used. There are various codes that are utilized 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 including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all private payer and government rules that influence coding also. Improperly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid at a lower 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 revenue each year, a good medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare team. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including family practices, hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Summary
As important as the medical coder’s job is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Fairbanks AK healthcare facilities and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Frequently the biller and coder are the same man or woman within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 independent specialists. When the coder has completed his or her job, the biller utilizes the codes provided to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After being paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles and additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical biller may also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been denied
- Function as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Produce and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for family practices, but also Fairbanks AK emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They can practice in any kind of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Programs and Certification
It’s essential that you get your instruction from a reputable school, whether it’s a community college, technical or trade school. Although it is not required in most cases to earn a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). Most colleges just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to appy. The fastest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to attain a certificate, which generally takes about one year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more expansive education, which for almost all colleges calls for two years of studies. Bachelor’s Degrees in medical billing and coding are not abundantly available. After your education has been completed, although not mandated in the majority of states, you may want to earn a professional certification. Certification is a great means for those new to the profession to show prospective Fairbanks AK employers that they are not only qualified but committed 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical billing and coding course, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new vocation and succeed in the fast growing Fairbanks AK medical care industry.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Classes
If you are looking for convenience and the flexibility of attending classes at home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding program may be a great alternative. They can be particularly attractive to individuals living in Fairbanks AK who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have other obligations that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online schools are in many cases cheaper than the conventional classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, course materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it’s important to verify that the online college 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 instruction you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to commit yourself to this mode of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Biller and Coder Courses
Now that you have a better idea what a medical biller and coder does, along with what training options are offered, you must start the process of evaluating schools. But since there many training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Fairbanks AK area, you need to have a ready list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you include all of the online colleges that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become rather daunting. As we have already discussed, location and cost are going to be significant issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be commuting to classes from your Fairbanks home. And verifying that the school and program are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let’s take a look at a few of the additional questions that you should ask the schools you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It’s vital that the school and program you select are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it’s an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it may help with your future employment as well. A number of Fairbanks AK medical organizations will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only obtainable for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the School’s Reputation? Before picking a medical coding and billing school, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other programs. This is especially important if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mainly be relying on the quality of your training. As we have covered, making sure that the school is accredited is an initial 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 some Fairbanks AK medical organizations that you may be interested in working for and find out which colleges they suggest. Bear in mind that even when the college itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Assistance 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 schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A high and rapid placement rate is an excellent indication that the billing and coding school has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the college’s graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College’s Location? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Fairbanks AK home, then the location of the school will be of prime importance. Of course if you select an online medical coding and billing program, then the location of the college will not be important. One thing to bear in mind is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, many charge a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical coding and billing training courses can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the length of training provided. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also consist of such items as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce a portion of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Fairbanks AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online college, some of these added costs, such as for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Accommodate your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending school and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, confirm that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time schedule, confirm that the college you choose provides that alternative. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enrolling in Medical Billing and Coding School near Fairbanks Alaska?
If you are considering enrolling in and attending a billing and coding school near Fairbanks AK, following is some relevant information about the area that may aid in your decision making process.
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska. 2016 estimates put the population of the city proper at 32,751, and the population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough at 100,605, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in Alaska (after Anchorage). The Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses all of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, located 196 driving miles (or 140 air miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the founding campus of the University of Alaska system.
Though there was never a permanent Alaska Native settlement at the site of Fairbanks, Athabascan peoples have used the area for thousands of years. An archaeological site excavated on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks uncovered a Native camp about 3,500 years old. From evidence gathered at the site, archaeologists surmise that Native activities in the area were limited to seasonal hunting and fishing. In addition, archeological sites on the grounds of nearby Fort Wainwright date back 10,000 years. Arrowheads excavated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks site matched similar items found in Asia, providing some of the first evidence that humans arrived in North America via the land bridge.
Captain E. T. Barnette founded Fairbanks in August 1901 while headed to Tanacross (or Tanana Crossing, where the Valdez–Eagle trail crossed the Tanana River), where he intended to set up a trading post. The steamboat on which Barnette was a passenger, the Lavelle Young, ran aground while attempting to negotiate shallow water. Barnette, along with his party and supplies, were deposited along the banks of the Chena River 7 miles (11 km) upstream from its confluence with the Tanana River. The sight of smoke from the steamer's engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felice Pedroni (better known as Felix Pedro) and his partner Tom Gilmore. The two met Barnette where he disembarked and convinced him of the potential of the area. Barnette set up his trading post at the site, still intending to eventually make it to Tanacross. Teams of gold prospectors soon congregated in and around the newly founded Fairbanks; they built drift mines, dredges, and lode mines in addition to panning and sluicing.
Pick the Best Medical Billing and Coding School near Fairbanks AK
Enrolling in the ideal medical billing and coding degree or certificate program is a crucial initial step to help assure your success in this rewarding sector of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the fastest growing careers in the health industry. As a result, there are numerous vocational schools, community colleges and other institutions that offer education and training in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can choose to attend classes either online or on campus. It’s also essential that the school you choose has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care field. But however you decide to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and asking the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to analyze your options and pick the right school. And with the appropriate training, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Fairbanks AK.
More Healthy Communities in Alaska