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Pros and Cons of Online Training Programs for Medical Coding and Billing

You can prepare for a career in medical coding and billing through an online program. If you’re self-motivated or if you’re already working in the medical field, online training may be just what you need.

Online education is no substitute for student-instructor interaction, but it is a good alternative for people who already have a billing and coding knowledge base and want to go it alone.

Pros of online training programs for medical coding and billing

Here are the advantages that an online program has to offer:

  • Scheduling flexibility: A quality online study program sets deadlines for completing the classwork, but it’s up to you to work it around your schedule. You decide when to log in for class, be it noon or midnight. You just log in and go, which is a great benefit if you have a full-time job or other responsibilities that don’t allow you to participate in a typical day-to-day class schedule.

  • Access to programs regardless of your location: Online programs are not geographically restrictive. Having access to any online program is especially beneficial if you live in a rural area or don’t have reliable transportation to a college campus.

  • Less costly: Online programs tend to be less costly than community college or vocational programs due, in part, to the fact that the school has less overhead. Fewer needs for physical facilities, resources, and higher faculty salaries help lower the costs for online programs.

Cons of online training programs for medical coding and billing

Although saving big bucks and going to class in your jammies are real boons, online programs have some obvious drawbacks:

  • You have limited access to educational support: Online students must be able to work independently and without the structure provided by a traditional classroom. With online instruction, you have less student-teacher interaction. Although you may be able to communicate with your instructor via message boards or e-mail, you’ll still need to wait for an answer before you can proceed with your assignment.

    Mastering the art of self-directed learning can be a challenge for some. It can be especially frustrating for a student who is unfamiliar with the healthcare industry. Online instruction is probably a better choice for a student who is already working in healthcare. Access to a mentor is another asset that isn’t always included with online tuition.

  • You need to be technically savvy. Online students need to be able to correct the myriad issues that arise when working online. To succeed online, you need to know your hardware, your software, and the quirks that go along with them.

  • Online programs have a higher incidence of being scam operations. Do not enroll in an online program that is not accredited by either the AAPC or AHIMA.

    Quality online programs offer the same curriculum as any accredited programs. They also allow students to communicate directly with the instructor, either through live chat sessions or e-mail. Although the communication isn’t face-to-face, the level of accessibility with your instructor should be the same as it would be in a typical classroom setting.

  • You have less opportunity to network with other students and faculty. Who would you be more likely to recommend: your online classmate or the person sitting in the next desk?

    If you enroll in an online program, locate the local professional chapter of the credentialing organization you want to join and start attending the meetings. Doing so is a great way to add the networking component that online programs lack.

  • Materials necessary to complete program can be costly. Online programs usually require that you purchase coding books just like community college programs do, so the costs can add up. Unfortunately, you can’t get coding books in many places, and the only discounts you can get are by purchasing bundles.

  • Certification exam costs are not included in the program cost. Certification exams can be costly, and you need the most current materials when you take the tests. Unlike programs offered at vocational schools, the cost of the exam probably won’t be included with your online tuition.

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