Certified Coders: To Be or Not To Be, That Is The Question

The HITM industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Employers are preparing their organizations for all the growth and changes that will take place over the next 5 years in the coding arena. Due to the changes, employers are in search of employees that can show and prove they have what it takes to keep the organization moving forward in this time of great change. Employers will seek coders that demonstrate a variety of coding skills. One of the leading skill sets that employers will be looking for is AHIMA credentialed medical coders. Credentialed coders prove to employers that they possess the professional expertise and mastery proficiency in coding.

Currently AHIMA has 3 coding certification exams that are administered to prove coding mastery, in the entry level coding, inpatient coding, and outpatient physician coding. As a graduate of coding certificate programs, and HITM associate degree programs, graduates will have the opportunity to obtain the following credentials CCA, CCS, and CCS-P.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a shortage of more than 50,000 qualified HIM and HIT workers by 2015. Obtaining a coding credential sets certified professionals miles ahead of non-credentialed professionals.

Coding accuracy is critical to healthcare reimbursement, and has an impact on revenues and describing health outcomes. Coding certification has become an implicit industry standard.

Let’s review the specifics for the three coding credentials offered by AHIMA.

CCA- Certified Coding Associate- According to AHIMA, the CCA credential distinguishes coders by exhibiting commitment and demonstrating coding competencies across all settings, including both hospitals and physician practices.  Becoming a CCA positions you as a leader in an exciting and growing market. CCAs:
• Exhibit a level of commitment, competency, and professional capability that employers are looking for
• Demonstrate a commitment to the coding profession
• Distinguish themselves from non-credentialed coders and those holding credentials from organizations less demanding of the higher level of expertise required to earn AHIMA certification

CCS-Certified Coding Specialist- According to AHIMA, the CCS credentialed professional possess the mastery proficiency skills in coding. Coding professionals with 2-3 years of coding experience are encouraged to sit for this comprehensive coding exam. The exam is especially designed for coders with inpatient and outpatient coding experience. The exam is based on a designated set of competencies for inpatient hospital based coders. The CCS is the highest level coding competency exam administered by a National accrediting body.

CCS-P Certified Coding Specialist Physician- According to AHIMA, the employment outlook for CCS-Ps is highly favorable, considering the growth of managed care and the movement of health services delivery beyond the hospital setting. Professionals performing coding in a doctor's office, clinic, or similar setting should consider obtaining the CCS-P certification to testify to their capabilities. The CCS-P certification exam assesses mastery-level proficiency in coding rather than entry-level skills. CCS-Ps’ are coding professionals who:
• Specialize in physician-based settings such as physician offices, group practices, multi-specialty clinics, or specialty centers
• Review patient records and assign numeric codes for each diagnosis and procedure
• Possess in-depth knowledge of the CPT coding system and familiarity with the ICD-9-CM and HCPCS Level II coding systems
• Are experts in health information documentation, data integrity, and quality
• Play a critical role in a health provider's business operations, because patients' coded data is submitted to insurance companies or the government for expense reimbursement.

The three coding certification are a great resource for coders to demonstrate proficiency and prove to employers that they are skilled and dedicated to the coding professions.  The coding certification examines are administered year round with immediate scoring in most cases.

http://www.ahima.org/certification/cca.aspx     http://www.ahima.org/certification/ccs.aspx  http://www.ahima.org/certification/ccsp.aspx

Article Submitted by:

Phelyncia Chaffold, MBA, RHIA. Program Director-HITM Program; The College of Health Care Professions