Many people consider online medical coding schools because they wish to obtain marketable skills and become certified as a medical coder.
Or you may be stuck in a dead-end job and not have the time during the day to go to school and learn another trade - because you are busy working. Online medical coding and billing schools have made it possible to learn at you own pace, at a time convenient for you, and generally for a lower cost than traditional campus programs.
What is Medical Coding?
Coding is the practice of taking information from medical charts, doctor's notes, lab results, patient medical histories and examinations, etc. and assigning the correct medical codes.
A medical coder analyzes patient charts and assigns the appropriate code. These codes are derived from ICD-9 codes (soon to be ICD-10) and the corresponding CPT treatment codes and any related CPT modifiers.
Some medical coders also perform medical billing functions for small practices - entering patient info, filing insurance claims, posting payments, patient statements, etc.
Do Medical Coders Have to be Certified?
Medical coders work in doctors offices, hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, insurance companies, long-term care facilities dental offices, and government agencies. The codes assigned by medical coders are used by providers and hospitals for reimbursement claims as part of the billing process. The codes are also used to prepare statistical reports on health care services to identify trends in health care.
Many employers require coders to be certified through either the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) or the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Technicians generally have a 2-year Associate’s degree or have completed a shorter certificate program in preparation for taking the certification exam. However having an associates degree is not a prerequisite for taking the certification exam.
Why be Certified?
One of the purposes of enrolling in an medical coding and billing schools online program is to obtain certification. Certification demonstrates a minimum standard of knowledge and expertise in certain medical coding environments. These credentials are recognized by employers, physician societies, and government organizations
Coder certification gives an employer confidence in the coders ability to find lost revenue for the practice, reduce post-payment problems, and protect their practice from unfavorable audits.
Another benefit is that certified coders can earn as much as 20% more than non-credentialed coders.
Certificate and Certified - Whats the Difference?
I know it can be confusing to talk about medical coding certification, and a medical coding or billing certificate from online medical coding schools. But there is a difference.
A certificate is awarded by the school upon successful completion of the coursework. This is sort of like a “mini” degree or proof that the coursework was completed.
Certification as a medical coder is awarded by an organization such as AAPC or AHIMA upon successfully passing a certification exam. These organizations are independent of the online medical coding schools.
Online Medical Coding School - How Much?
To prepare yourself sufficiently for getting into medical coding and billing, its a good idea to obtain a certification or degree in medical coding.
Online medical coding schools certificate programs can typically cost $2000 to $5000 approximate and takes 6 to 9 months depending on how aggressively you study.
An Associates Degree which is typically 2 years long can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 from a reputable school. Many in the field are of the opinion that getting a two - or four-year degree is the best path to success and provides the best foundation for future promotion into management.
For those who already have knowledge and experience in medical coding and billing, obtaining a certificate or degree may not be your goal. However you can expect to pay between $1500 and $2500 to be adequately prepared to take the exam. You really only need to take coursed and buy materials that are geared to helping you pass the certification test.
These costs can very depending on location, demand, and reputation of the school.
Online medical coding schools are becoming very popular as there are many that offer students a quality education. With medical coding schools online, the cost to deliver the course is less for a school making it an affordable alternative to a campus setting.
Students typical costs such as transportation, housing, or ability to work take courses are an important consideration also. Because of this, degrees from medical coding and billing schools online have become one of the more popular degrees to earn online.
What to Expect for Online Medical Coding and Billing Schools
Online medical coding schools training can take anywhere from six months to two years or more. The coursework typically includes medical terminology, billing and insurance procedures and codes, anatomy, health information, database management, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology, etc.
Some programs give students the chance to earn real-world experience by working as an intern in a physicians or hospital office. If you are new to medical coding, you probably want to start by taking just one course at a time to get up to speed. Later you may take more than one online course at a time.
You probably should plan to spend around 6 to 10 hours a week for each course. This time is necessary to read, complete assignments, and participate in any discussion forums or interact with the instructor if necessary.
For most online medical coding school courses, you can access them any time of the day or day of the week when the course is being offered. Each course instructor gives the info on any lectures, assignments, or tests. You want to follow the instructors recommended assignments so you can keep up with the course.
How Does Online Medical Coding Schools Compare to Traditional?
So how does online medical coding school compare to the traditional classroom setting?
In the traditional classroom, you have face-to-face interaction with the instructor and other students. If you have a question, you ask and have it answered right then and there. In an online course, you will have to use email or chat to talk with your instructor.
Who are good candidates for online medical coding schools? Here’s a listing of qualities that make a good online student:
Most online courses enable you to interact with not only the instructor, but other students also - typically through discussion forums. Through these forums you can read and respond to postings by other students. You may also interact using email or chat.
There generally aren’t too many prerequisites for online medical coding schools. However you should be proficient computer users - particularly in keyboarding, managing email, word processing and web browsers. You also should have some knowledge of how to use applications like word processors (Microsoft Word) and spreadsheets (like Microsoft Excel).
What to Look for in a Online Medical Coding School
With so many online medical coding and billing schools available both online and offline, the choice of which one to choose may seem overwhelming. Here’s some questions to ask or things to look for in selecting a program.
The medical coding and billing schools program should give you the qualifications needed to get a job and the training to succeed on the job.
Illegitimate Online Coding Schools
With online medical coding and billing schools becoming so popular, there are many unscrupulous online coding schools offering medical billing coding training. These are usually directed towards work at home opportunities or starting your own home based business.
What these websites really do is waste your hard earned money and time. Here are some red flags that will alert you to potential illegitimate online medical coding schools:
So take your time in selecting a good online medical coding school. Edu-Search (shown above) is a good resource for finding medical coding and billing schools - either local or online. Enter your criteria above and you’ll see a listing of several quality options for medical billing coding training.
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