What does a diploma in medical billing and claims entail?
A diploma in medical billing and claims teaches students how to bill insurance companies, process claims, understand medical coding systems and communicate with medical professionals. If a patient comes in with a broken finger, a cold, or needs a series of tests, each of these situations requires a different code. This process is done electronically, so as a medical biller and coder, you help people to get medical care and help them to get their care covered by insurance.
What factors went into your decision to pursue your diploma online?
When I decided to enroll in Ashworth College's medical billing and claims program, I was about to deploy to Iraq with the Army. At the time, there was a very high demand for medical billers, and I wanted to get certified in a field that would give me something to fall back on when I got home from Iraq. I also didn't want my service to hinder my ability to get an education. Attending online classes while I was in active service was the only way that I could complete an education program.
What were the main reasons you chose to get your degree from Ashworth College as opposed to any other online school?
I decided to attend Ashworth College because it is an accredited school. I did some research on schools that offer programs in medical billing, and many of them aren't accredited. They just charge money and give you a degree, but that degree is basically useless once you try to find a job.
What were your program requirements?
Ashworth College's medical billing and claims program is very flexible, and students can complete it on their own schedule. The program included basic terminology courses so that you understand the medical terms used when you work with medical professionals. You also become familiar with the different forms that are used in medical billing. For the coding side of the program, you learn about the diagnostics that determine what situation gets what code. And you also learn how to post transactions.
All of the assignments were geared toward giving us the chance to gain experience with the practical skills of coding and billing. We had many assignments, but they were usually fairly short.
On average, how many students were in each of your classes?
On average, I think there were about 15 to 20 students in my classes. Students were from all over the country and some were even overseas. It was a very diverse group.
How were class materials presented?
All of my coursework was accessible online. We were given a series of lessons that covered different aspects of medical billing and coding. There were usually short reading assignments that went with each lesson, and we would take an online exam once we completed all of the assignments.
What were the most and least useful classes that you took?
I found all of my classes equally useful, because every single 1 of them taught me a different aspect of medical billing. I can't say that any of my classes weren't necessary to what I do now.
Did you have an advisor to assist you throughout your program?
No, while I attended the medical billing and claims program at Ashworth College, I did not have an advisor.
How did you interact with your professors?
I interacted with my instructors through e-mail and over the phone. For the most part, I communicated with them through e-mail because I was getting ready to deploy to Iraq. All of my instructors were very responsive. Any time I had a question, they either e-mailed back or called with the answer.
How knowledgeable did you feel your professors were?
I felt like my instructors were as knowledgeable as they needed to be. I didn't get the sense that any of them had their own medical billing and coding businesses. It seemed like they were just teachers.
Were you able to get to know your professors on a personal basis?
No, I wasn't able to get to know my instructors on a personal basis while I studied at Ashworth College. But I was also busy at the time, and I didn't necessarily seek out these kinds of relationships.
In your opinion, did the fact that you studied online affect your job prospects?
No, I don't think that studying online affected my job prospects. Right now, I own my own medical billing and coding practice. I was able to get into the field immediately after returning from Iraq, which had been my intention. It seems like it is common for people to earn their certifications in medical billing and coding online.
Did your online diploma in medical billing and claims prepare you for employment?
My online diploma definitely prepared me for employment. At my medical billing and coding practice that I have owned for the last 5 years, I have been able to use all of the skills that were covered in Ashworth's program.
Based on your experience so far, is there anything you would have done differently in pursuing your diploma online?
I don't think that I would do anything differently about pursuing my medical billing and claims diploma online. I ended up doing very well in class and had a 4.0 GPA. I was also inducted into an honors society, and I am very proud with where my education has taken me.
If you are thinking about getting a diploma or a certification in medical billing and coding, I would tell you to pursue it. But you should know that if you want to work in hospitals or clinics you will need to earn another certification. Hospitals and clinics are looking for medical billers who become certified through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) as a Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) or a Certified Coding Specialist, Physician-based (CCS-P). The best thing to do is to attend a school that is connected with AHIMA so that you can earn their certification after you finish with your medical billing program.