What to Look for in a Medical Billing and Coding School

Medical billing and coding schools educate individuals interested in pursuing medical billing and coding careers in the healthcare industry. Medical billing and coding is the process of using a preset classification system to assign alphanumeric codes to patient services. Medical billers at hospitals and other healthcare providers use these codes when submitting reimbursement claims to insurance companies. Medical billing and coding schools help students learn the skills necessary to accurately assign medical codes and expedite the billing process. Here are some things you should consider when choosing a school.

What types of medical billing and coding schools are there?

There are several types of medical billing and coding schools that accommodate different lifestyles, career goals and financial resources. Most institutions are not uniquely medical and coding schools, but also offer other allied health programs or degrees.
  • Technical schools and vocational medical billing and coding schools typically offer certificates or diploma programs. Courses concentrate on the basic skills needed to get a job. They provide the fastest and least expensive options.
  • Nursing schools offer medical billing and coding certificates as part of their allied health departments. Nursing schools associated with universities also may offer associate degrees with college credits.
  • Community colleges offer certificates and associate degrees in medical billing and coding. Certificate coursework may be applied toward associate degrees in the same institution. Associate degree students earn general college credits that can be transferred toward a bachelor’s degree in the future.
  • Colleges and universities may offer certificate, associate and bachelor’s degrees in medical billing and coding. A bachelor’s degree gives students a competitive edge in pursuing advanced employment and management positions.

What are important considerations for the best medical billing and coding schools?

Each of the top medical billing and coding schools has unique characteristics that set it apart from other schools. However, there are certain factors that can help you determine the quality of medical billing and coding schools. The best medical billing and coding schools usually have the following:
  • Online programs that include the same curriculum as on-ground programs
  • Programs that offer the knowledge needed to pass a certification examination from a professional organization
  • Program accreditation from CAHIIM (Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education) or individual course accreditation from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
  • School accreditation from a national or regional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • Tutoring services and educational counselors that can help you reach your goals
  • Career services to help you find employment after graduation

How important is accreditation/agency approval in medical billing and coding schools?

There are different types of accreditation for medical billing and coding schools. School accreditation demonstrates that the institution provides an education that is officially recognized as being valid by the U.S. Department of Education. Attendance at an accredited school is a requirement for federal financial aid.
Program accreditation is awarded to a specific educational program or degree. The CAHIIM accredits programs in medical billing and coding schools. Accreditation indicates the program meets industry standards. Attending a CAHIIM accredited program is a requirement to take some types of specialized certification exams from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).   The AAPC accredits specific courses taught by AAPC-certified instructors. These may be offered individually or as part of a program. AAPC-accredited courses meet the content standards of the AAPC, which grants industry certifications.

What is the curriculum in medical billing and coding schools?

Curriculum varies by school and type of program. Certificate or diploma programs will include studies in subjects such as these:
  • Medical Terminology
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Human Disease and Treatment
  • Physician Coding
  • Hospital Coding
  • Reimbursement Methodologies
Associate and bachelor’s degrees allow for further study of the healthcare system. Curriculum includes general courses in subjects such as mathematics, English and the social sciences. If you decide to continue your education, specific coursework in advanced billing and coding studies includes the following:
  • Health Information Management
  • Healthcare Statistics
  • Electronic Data Security
  • Health Information Law and Ethics
  • Healthcare Regulation and Compliance

What are the costs and length of programs in medical billing and coding schools?

Costs and length of programs can vary widely by geographic area, demand and type of degree earned. Certificate or diploma programs can start as low as $1,000. Individual courses cost less. There is no average cost for associate and bachelor’s degree programs since their fees depend on the type of institution you select, though associate degrees typically cost less than bachelor’s degrees. Completion times for programs in medical billing and coding schools also vary. Factors include whether programs are self-paced or offered by semester and whether you attend part-time or full-time. Some certificate or diploma programs can be completed in as little as a few months. When attending school full time, associate degree programs often require two years, while bachelor’s degrees require four years.


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