Although some vocational colleges do offer degrees in these fields, you are better off finding shorter courses that an employee can complete while also being trained in-house.
Online training courses are one possibility. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers self-paced online courses for medical coding, for example. The advantage of this type of training is that employees can complete the course at their convenience (although you may want to impose a deadline of your own to prevent delays). Plus, your practice does not need to be located near any type of training facility for your employees to participate.
Even if your new employees have completed previous medical billing and coding training, you should still provide them with off-site training in how to use your billing software. So many types of billing software are currently on the market that it is unlikely they will be familiar with the one used in your practice.
If you don't want to or can't afford to invest in significant off-site training for new employees, then make sure you have a highly qualified billing manager, or trained medical office manager, available who can adequately train and supervise new employees for at least the first week or two on the job.
The Need for Future Training
A single time of training is not going to be sufficient for your medical billing staff. They will need to stay up-to-date on changes which affect how they do their job, including Medicare billing and coding policies.
About 90 days after a staff member joins your billing department, you should send them for additional training. This may be a good time to invest in one of the online training programs discussed in the previous section.
Of course not all training has to be formal. Encourage your employees to become members of professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Coding Professionals. They can attend meetings at local chapters, go to the annual national conference, and receive important information about changes and developments in the field. You could even cover the membership costs as part of their employee benefits.
Credentialing Your Billing Staff
Credentialing your billing staff is more important than you may realize. Yes, it should provide the additional training and education that will help your billing department operate more efficiently. However, it will also provide you some protection if your practice is ever subject to a Federal audit under the False Claims Act.
If you are audited and billing problems are found, it will be important to show proof of adequately training your staff. Having your staff get certified through an appropriate program would serve as sufficient proof.
There are a number of organizations which offer certification programs. They all involve your employees passing a standardized test. The tests differ from program to program, so you need to investigate the programs to find which one will match most closely to your staff's background and existing education. Prices for certification range from $195 to $1000 depending on what type of test preparation you want and other factors.
Even after your staff member earns their certification, they will still need to continue their education. In fact, if they fail to do so they risk losing their certification.
Resources Used in Article
About the Author
Amy Jorgensen is a freelance writer based in southern Indiana. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Southern California Physician magazine.
The author has no financial relationship to any of the companies listed in the article.