Thursday, March 31, 2011

Medical Assistant Students Frustrated Over Medical Billing and Coding Expectations

Medical assistant students enrolled in medical assistant courses often have difficulties understanding the medical billing claim form and have problems understanding evaluation and management codes.

We often hear from frustrated students on our active online forums; many wind up venting.

One medical assistant student recently posted into the forum that her instructor wasn't very helpful; she felt the instructor apparently wasn't well versed in the medical billing and coding process herself and therefore was unable to explain the process in a manner that made it clear to the class. The students are frustrated and overwhelmed.

Another person posted a request for help:
I work for a Cardiologist. We are trying to get clarification on:
·        CPT 93454  (Catheter place in coronary arterty(s) for coronary angiography, imaging supervision, and interpretation
·        CPT 93458 (with left heart catherization including intraprocedural injection(s) for left ventriculogy, when performed

QUESTION: Can these two codes be billed together if both of these services are performed?

Medical Coding and Billing Questions in the Certification Exams

We receive many, many, many similar forum discussions from frustrated medical assistant certificants. Some posted right after taking the medical assistant certification exam where they stated that they were totally stumped over the amount of medical coding questions in the exam. The questions were multiple choice and asked about specific numeric codes, or modifiers, for a given specific diagnoses or procedures. Now, ask any medical assistant to cite a specific code without any reference book/manual; he/she would be hard-pressed to give the right one, since there are so many, not to mention specific modifiers.
Agnes told us:Hi, I just took the RMA exam today and I have to tell you that from the 206 questions none of them were in the AMT study book. I passed the test so I feel very lucky because it was very difficult. I was very disappointed because I felt the RMA test was not fair; they focused too much on the administrative area and I felt like it has nothing to do with the MA profession.
We also heard from a physical therapy instructor who teaches the basics of medical coding and billing as it pertains to PT because the majority of his students do their own billing and coding. One question this has raised is why do medical assistant students have to learn medical coding and billing and why is is such an extensive part of the medical assistant certification exams? Rather, shouldn't students who want to learn about it sign up for medical coding and billing classes?

Should Medical Assistants Learn Coding and Billing?

We can see where medical assistants (MA) need to have an idea of medical practice financial management, such as banking deposits, accounting and bookkeeping, dishonored check processing, payroll - and even that is nowadays often outsourced. Nevertheless, in any profession you should get a picture of how the whole kit and caboodle functions to make it run.

In our opinion, as far as medical assistant students being introduced to the billing and collections process in GENERAL is okay--only to give them a well-rounded understanding of the practice and how things work. This way, they can better address patient questions and communicate with the medical billing and coding staff efficiently should certain issues arise.

However, as far as actual billing and coding responsibilities in my role as a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA),  I was NEVER involved in the actual billing and coding process, neither were any of my medical assistant colleagues, with the exception of one medical office manager, who had worked her way up through the ranks as a medical assistant in a small single-physician office.

Many believe medical assistant programs who focus too much and dive too deep into the medical coding and billing process as part of their teaching curruculum are wasting their time. Most medical assistant students feel this time would be better spent drawing up injections, or drawing blood.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Stands Behind the Medical Assistant's Name

Have You Ever Asked Yourself: What Stands Behind the Medical Assistant's Name?

If you asked anybody, whether a health care professional, neighbor, or friend what stands behind a medical assistant's name, chances are you might get one of the following two responses:
1.) what the heck is a medical assistant?
2.) let me think about that for a moment

The latter will give it a moment's thought and then very likely say:
a.) I don't know
b.) a bunch of letters?

... by which they are referring to various certified medical assistant credentials, such as RMA, NCMA, CCMA, and CMA. You know the gamut of certified credentials and designations! However... what truly stands behind a medical assistant's name are not roles, titles, credentials, or the letters that signify a certification, but MOSTLY and more appropriately their dedication, hard work and pride in their profession and what they do. Not every medical assistant is certified, but every medical assistant is proud and giving it their very best helping people and making a difference in their community, even if it is as "only" a medical assistant (MA) without any special certifications.

So, if you are a medical assistant I would like to hear your stories and thoughts on What Stands Behind the Medical Assistant's Name - be spontaneous - right off the top of your head!!! (And don't come back with answer a.) - You already KNOW what a medical assistant is. The POST COMMENTS link is below.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are Medical Assistant Required to State their Name?

On January 8th, 2011 Mandy Roads asked:

Are medical assistants supposed to provide full name or only 1st name to a patient who asks? All doctors provide full name, but do patients have the right to full name disclosure of Medical assistants, also? If not, how do patients keep track for reference who said what, or did what medical care etc. on a given date and time etc.?

Medical Assistant Name Admin Says: 

In my opinion, and many will agree here, there is good policy and practice to state your full name when greeting a patient. By stating your name you establish an identity and build rapport with the patients.
Most medical assistants simply use their first name, while wearing a name badge with their full name and credentials printed behind it, e.g. MA, RMA, CMA, CCMA, NCMA, or whichever designations they have. A typical greeting, once a patient has been called in from the waiting area, is: “Hello, my name is Judy, and I am your medical assistant.” However, if a patient asks for the full name, I believe it would be improper and unethical to refuse to give it. I am sure this would not go over well with the doctor under which the medical assistant works. To me, refusal to state the name immediately implies lack of cooperation, lack of empathy, lack of courtesy and comes across as unprofessional.
In addition, from my own observations as a patient, I always find it odd if a medical assistant calls me in for my exam, takes me to the exam room, begins to take my vital signs and NEVER stated her name. Often, I will say politely something along the lines: “Excuse me, but I didn’t get your name”, just to let him, or her know I’d be more comfortable knowing with whom I am in the room. I, in my own role as a medical assistant and also, as a patient, highly recommend that every medical assistant automatically states his, or her name. The patients will appreciate it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is Certified Medical Assisting right for you?

While there is high demand for this job, even in the current economy, there are also high demands on a prospective candidate: costs, temperament, skills and time commitment.

Well, let's think about it this way: Are you an efficient multitasker who works well with people? Want to use your organizational skills within the fast-paced environment of a medical facility, where you could be handling everything from managing the day-to-day operations of a doctors office, to interacting and helping with patients?

Medical assistant training that leads to desired diplomas and degrees requires one or two years of training in order to be eligible for the medical assistant certification exam upon successful graduation.

There are distance programs available, however there is a requirement to dedicate a year to full time training, which will likely be a lost year of income for you: you will need to factor that in with the tuition to determine your overall financial obligation.

To learn more about the medical assisting career please visit Medical Assistant NET on the Web.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting A Medical Assistant Education

Getting a medical assistant education will open up many opportunities:

Professionals in the field get to work alongside doctors and nurses, in settings such as physician's offices and hospitals. The career outlook is great and pay is comparable to that of other highly skilled health care workers.

Medical assistant training is offered at a variety of college throughout the country. The career field appeals to people of all walks of life, and is accessible to anyone no matter what the age. In the past, workers were trained on the job, but with mandated changes in health care guidelines more colleges have worked the program into their curriculum.

Classes for the program include biology, pathophysiology and coding.
Students will also complete a set amount of hours in a clinical setting.
This is usually done towards the end of the curriculum.

Getting Started

Many two-year colleges and technical schools offer the program. Do an internet search to find a local college that has the curriculum. The requirements at each school will vary, but all students need to achieve a high school diploma before applying.

After finding a program schedule a campus visit. This provides an opportunity to see what the school has to offer and learn more about the courses. Speak with an enrollment counselor as they are fully prepared to help students choose a major and set up classes.

The next step is to sign up. Most colleges offer an online application, but the paperwork may also be filled out at the admissions office. Be thorough and do not leave any spaces empty.

During the admission processes a student will likely be required to complete an entrance exam. Some schools require the TEAS exam and others demand the SAT be taken. This information will be discussed during that initial meeting with the guidance counselor. The test serves as an assessment of math and English skills and as a guideline to where each person is with their education. Many colleges offer study groups and tutoring to help students prepare for the examinations.

Financing Your Education

The school will require payment prior to starting the program. Colleges offer a variety of options to students who are struggling to pay for school. Visit the financial aid office to find out about assistance.

Federal aid is one method of financing college. Students can get a Pell Grant, federal loans and state scholarships to help pay for school expenses. A work study option is also available and requires students to work part-time in one of the school's offices.

The deadline to apply for aid is on March 10. Although applications are still accepted after the date, students should apply quickly to receive the maximum benefit amount. Talk to a school counselor to find out more information.

A medical assistant diploma opens many doors for those who graduate the program. No matter what age group or walk of life a student comes from, an individual can gain a lot from the curriculum. Check with a local college to find out more information about training. The career is truly rewarding and the pay is great. It is a great choice for anyone who wants to change their life.