HRS Learning Center offers career training in medical billing
By SHELLY WILKISON
As more people become insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act, there is a growing need for qualified medical insurance billers. And one Liberty Hill company has developed an online curriculum to educate and train future talent to meet the demand.
The Liberty Hill-based HRS Learning Center offers an online curriculum that includes hands-on training for those seeking careers in the medical billing field. At the end of three months, students earn certificates indicating they have completed the required coursework along with valuable training preparing them for medical billing jobs in hospitals, clinics or physicians’ offices.
Cheri Freeman, president of the company and an instructor at HRS, spent more than a decade in the medical billing industry and developed the curriculum in response to industry needs and student feedback.
“The goal is to offer hands-on training combined with a certification to give our students the skills and knowledge required to begin a career in the medical billing industry,” she said.
Freeman started her own billing company in 1999. She was looking for something to do that would allow her the freedom to work from home. She spent 10 years growing her business into a successful central Texas billing company with clients across the country. Then in 2010, her company was invited to merge with a career college in Austin where she offered students externships providing them with hands-on experience in medical billing.
“Employers are looking for someone with experience. Students can have a diploma (from a career college), but they (employers) are needing someone with experience, and they didn’t have it,” she said. “So we listened to the feedback of students and developed a curriculum in this office. It gave them an edge to have hands-on experience.”
Freeman said career colleges often offer externships with companies, but it isn’t uncommon for students to spend a great deal of time answering phones, running errands or doing other tasks not related to their training.
“The externship should be meaningful work. Students should be able to go into a (job) interview and speak intelligently about the field,” Freeman said. “We offered them real work in a medical billing database. Students said they learned more from us in an externship than they did in the class.
“My wish was to teach complex revenue cycles from start to finish using a hands-on approach,” she said. “You can’t just learn this from a book.”
Freeman said the healthcare industry is booming, and the health information technology field is growing fast along with it.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment prospects for medical billers and health information technicians in the medical industry are projected to grow 22 percent from 2012-2022 — much faster than the average for all occupations.
Freeman said because of the growing complications of the process, it has become more common for medical practices to outsource the billing work. And when it comes to dealing with Medicare, the process becomes even more challenging.
“Dealing with Medicare is complicated,” she said. “The billing process has become so complicated that many employers don’t want to train employees to do this work. They want someone with the knowledge base already, so they look to billing companies. This is very burdensome for doctors, and we’re here to help relieve that burden.”
Freeman said the support and endorsement of HRS Learning Center by the American Medical Billing Association is huge. It means those who leave the three-month course have indeed completed a recognized curriculum that prepares them well for the workplace.
“AMBA is excited to be working with HRS to offer their students the opportunity to move forward with certification in a field that is experiencing a high rate of growth, in part due to the Affordable Care Act,” said Cyndee Weston, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association. “The courses and education provided by HRS is an excellent foundation for students along with our certification and it propels their students to the top.”
Freeman said the ideal candidates for positions in medical billing are those who are detail oriented and work well independently. All of the work is done on computers and by telephone communicating with insurance companies. Candidates should have completed a high school education and should have a good understanding of how to use computers and the Internet.
The HRS online classes are conducted as web meetings instructed by Freeman. Students meet online twice weekly, and if they miss a class, a link is provided to the recording for their review.
The next course begins April 2 and online classes will be at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 12 Noon on Thursdays.
Registration is going on now and will continue through the first week of April. To sign up, visit the HRS website at www.hrslearningcenter.com.
Freeman said the cost of the three-month HRS program is about 10 percent of what career colleges charge for 12 months, and HRS students leave with more actual training hours. Those attending career colleges can expect to pay about $20,000, compared to $2,500 at HRS.
Additionally, HRS offers scholarships to qualified students, and beginning with the graduating class of 2015, she will offer scholarships to Liberty Hill High School graduates.
“This is perfect for students who don’t want to attend a four-year university, but want a meaningful career. Or even as a way to earn money to pay for a college degree,” she said. “The freedom to work from home is a big draw. Billing companies hire a lot of remote employees.”
To request scholarship application or additional information about HRS Learning Center, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.