HIM Coding
  HIM coding    * Resources & certification info for new medical coders

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Pages Archived - 2010

Pages Archived - 2008

 

Medical Coding Credentials

 

Coding Credentials

Don't fall prey to medical coding education and certification schemes that pop up overnight. You should obtain your coding credentials from the two trusted organizations American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and/or American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). AHIMA credentials are highly respected in hospital settings, and AAPC coding credentials are better known in physician practices.

For AHIMA approved health information management (HIM) and coding schools, visit my HIM Links page. You can search HIM schools by state, program level, school name, and whether distance learning is available.

Updates:

2005 Update - Starting in 2005, AHIMA's coding certification exams are computerized. However, the cases for part II of the CCS and CCS-P exams will still be provided in printed format. Answers are typed on the answer sheet on the computer screen.

Jun 2007 Update - AHIMA has updated the CCS exam. The new exam content outline will be effective June 2007.

Jul 2007 Update - AAPC now offers new specialty credentials (must also hold a core credential). Scroll down to AAPC section.

Aug 2007 Update - ACMCS is a new organization for outpatient coders. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more info.

Sep 2008 Update - AAPC announced a new a credential for radiology coders, the Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC) credential.

Dec 2008 Update - AHIMA starts offering a new HIM credential - Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA).

2009 Update - AAPC offers additional specialty credentials

Jul 2009 Update - Association of Dermatology Administrators & Managers (ADA/M) and AAPC announce a new AAPC dermatology coding credential, Certified Professional Coder in Dermatology (CPCD)

Jan 2011 Update - AHIMA's certification exams are now taking place at Pearson VUE testing centers (was Prometric).

 

Certificate vs Certified?

The "certificate (of completion)" you get from your school after finishing a medical coding training class or program is not the same as being a "certified coder." A "certified coder" has taken a separate certification coding exam and passed it. After successfully passing the coding exam, you will be awarded a coding credential (e.g. CCS, CCS-P, CPC) that shows you are a "certified (credentialed) coder." CCS, CCS-P, and RHIT are examples of credentials in coding and health information management.

For example, to become a "CCS certified (credentialed) coder," you must take AHIMA's CCS coding exam and pass it successfully. Also, to earn the "RHIT credential," you must first complete a CAHIIM accredited two-year study program and earn an A.S. (associate of science) degree in HIT, and then sit for the separate RHIT credentialing exam administered by AHIMA. Your school cannot give you credentials (certified status), a separate agency does.

 

AHIMA Coding Credentials

American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) was founded in 1928 to improve the quality of medical records. It is the premier, not-for-profit association for health information management professionals. If you desire to work as a coder in the hospital setting, strive for an AHIMA credential!

Tidbit - Passing rates for 2008 AHIMA coding certification exams were 64% for the CCA exam, 49.5% for CCS, and 49.4% for CCS-P.

CCS - Certified Coding Specialistfloral

  • prerequisites: HS diploma, three years of hospital coding (inpatients, outpatient surgeries, ED cases) experience recommended but not required before taking the exam
  • mastery level coding credential
  • professionals skilled in classifying medical data from patient records, generally in the hospital setting
  • possess expertise in the ICD-9-CM coding system (diagnosis and procedure codes, volumes 1-3) and the surgery section within the CPT coding system
  • knowledgeable of medical terminology, disease processes, and pharmacology
  • coding inpatient records, or coding the hospital portion of ambulatory surgery and emergency room care
  • Note - "inpatients" are patients who have been formally admitted to the hospital at least overnight, they are not same-day-surgery (outpatient surgery, ambulatory surgery) patients who come to the hospital just for the procedure; hospital inpatient surgeries and procedures are coded from the volume 3 of ICD-9-CM, not with CPT; hospital inpatient coders must also follow extensive inpatient coding guidelines
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • CCS info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)
  • see the study guides page for info on how I prepared for my CCS exam

Will the CCS credential be valid when ICD-10-CM/PCS is implemented?

  • Mar 2009 - According to the Commission on Certification there will be no new exam requirements for ICD-10, but extra CEUs may be required by 2013. In other words, CCS credential holders are not required to retest when ICD-10 is implemented.

CCS-P - Certified Coding Specialist, Physician-based

  • prerequisites: HS diploma, three years of physician-based (Dr's office or clinic) coding experience recommended but not required before taking the exam
  • mastery level coding credential
  • expertise in physician-based settings such as physician offices, group practices, multi-specialty clinics, or specialty centers
  • in-depth knowledge of the CPT coding system and familiarity with the ICD-9-CM and HCPCS Level II coding systems
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • CCS-P info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)

CCA - Certified Coding Associate

  • prerequisites: HS diploma, six months of coding experience or completion of an AHIMA approved coding course highly recommended but not required
  • an entry-level coding credential
  • the starting point for an individual entering a new career as a coder
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • see links page for AHIMA approved schools
  • CCA info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)

 

Other AHIMA Credentials

RHIT - Registered Health Information Technician

  • AS degree in Health Information Management (HIT or HIM) from a CAHIIM accredited college & credentialing exam required
  • many work as coders, lead coders, coding supervisors, and coding managers
  • associate level programs in HIM prepare students for a variety of HIM careers, and provide an excellent foundation for being a successful hospital coder
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • RHIT info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)
  • See the study guides page for info on how I prepared for my RHIT exam

RHIA -  Registered Health Information Administrator

  • BS degree in Health Information Management (HIM) from a CAHIIM accredited college & credentialing exam required
  • many work as coders or coding managers
  • bachelors level programs in HIM prepare students for management positions
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • RHIA info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)

CHP - Certified in Healthcare Privacy (old credential)

  • will be integrated into CHPS in 2007 (see below)
  • BS degree or higher & healthcare management experience & credentialing exam required
  • designing, implementing, and administering comprehensive privacy protection programs in all types of healthcare organizations

CHS - Certified in Healthcare Security (old credential)

  • will be integrated into CHPS in 2007 (see below)
  • BS degree or higher & healthcare management experience & credentialing exam required
  • designing, implementing, and administering comprehensive security protection programs in all types of healthcare organizations

CHPS - Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security

  • new combination credential created in 2007
  • BS degree or higher & healthcare management experience & credentialing exam required
  • AHIMA integrated the two above credentials, CHP and CHS, into one credential in April 2007
  • this new credential demonstrates mastery of both healthcare privacy and security
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • CHPS info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)

CHDA - Certified Health Data Analyst

  • new AHIMA credential, Dec 2008
  • two eligibility routes:
  • 1) RHIA (see above) & minimum of 1 year of healthcare data experience & credentialing exam
  • 2) BS degree or higher & minimum of 5 years of healthcare data experience & credentialing exam
  • demonstrates expertise in health data analysis; data management, data analytics, data reporting; data architecture, data dictionaries, data interpretation
  • computer-based exams in approved testing centers
  • CHDA info at AHIMA site (new URL 2010)

 

AAPC Coding Credentials

American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) provides credentials for physician practice and outpatient clinic coders. AAPC was founded in 1988. It is a for-profit organization.

Prerequisites: AAPC membership and two years of coding experience is required to obtain the CPC, CPC-H, and CPC-P credentials. If the applicant has less than two years on the job experience and passes the exam, he/she will be awarded the designation of CPC/CPC-H/CPC-P Apprentice until the work experience requirement is met.

CPC - Certified Professional Coder

  • coding services, procedures, and diagnoses for physician practices
  • proctored exam

CPC-H - Certified Professional Coder, Outpatient Hospital

  • coding services, procedures, and diagnoses for outpatient facilities
  • proctored exam

CPC-P - Certified Professional Coder, Payer

  • new coding credential created in September 2005
  • for coders in the payer community, claims review and adjudication
  • proctored exam

CIRCC - Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder

New 2008 specialty credential from AAPC for interventional radiology coders. No other coding credential required, but the test applicant must be an AAPC member. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions, and it will cover diagnostic angiography, non-vascular interventions, percutaneous vascular interventions, diagnostic cardiac catheterization, and basic coronary arterial interventions. The first CIRCC exam will be offered in Sep 2008. The 2009 price for the exam is $400.

CPMA - Certified Professional Auditor (new credential)

 

Other AAPC specialty coding credentials

AAPC now offers many specialty-specific credentials in addition to their core credentials. These proctored exams have 150 (was 75) multiple choice questions and cost $245. Additional yearly CEU's are required for credential maintenance and recertification. Exam applicants must be current AAPC members.

AAPC members with old Ingenix specialty credentials were grandfathered into the new AAPC specialty credentials. First specialty coding exams were released on July 1, 2007.

Specialty coding exams listed in 2008:

  • Ambulatory Surgical Center – ASC
  • Anesthesia – ANEST
  • Cardiology – CARDIO
  • Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery – CTS
  • E/M Auditor – E/M
  • Family Practice Medicine – FP
  • Gastroenterology – GI
  • General Surgery – GENSG
  • Internal Medicine – INTMED
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology – OBGYN
  • Orthopaedics – ORTHO
  • Pediatrics – PEDS
  • Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery – PLRS
  • Urology – URO

Specialty coding exams listed in 2009:

  • Ambulatory Surgical Center – CASCC
  • Anesthesia and Pain Management – CANPC
  • Cardiology – CCC
  • Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery – CCVTC
  • (Dermatology – CDERC)
  • Dermatology - CPCD (announced Jul 2009)
  • Emergency Department - CEDC
  • Evaluation and Management – CEMC
  • Family Practice – CFPC
  • Gastroenterology – CGIC
  • General Surgery – CGSC
  • Internal Medicine – CIMC
  • Obstetrics Gynecology – COBGC
  • Orthopaedic Surgery – COSC
  • Otolaryngology – CENTC
  • Pediatrics – CPEDC
  • Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery – CPRC
  • Rheumatology – CRHC
  • Urology – CUC

Specialty coding exams listed in 2010:

  • 2009 list above
  • Hematology and Oncology – CHOC (new)

 

ACMCS Coding Credentials

American College of Medical Coding Specialists (ACMCS) is a new, not-for-profit organization for outpatient coders. It was launched in August 2007.

At first, ACMCS offered a grandfathered coding credential for those who held an AHIMA coding credential (CCS, CCS-P) or an AAPC coding credential (CPC, CPC-H, CPC-P).

Originally, ACMCS planned to offer three coding credentials, Physician Coding Specialist (PCS), Facility Coding Specialist (FCS), and Coding Specialist for Payors (CSP). However, accoding to their 2009 web site, the last credential seems to have been dropped.

ACMCS anticipates that their first PCS certification exam will be offered in early 2009 (postponed from 2008).

 

References:
AAPC - aapc.com
ACMCS - acmcs.org
AHIMA - ahima.org

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