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Medical Coding Certification

medical coding woman clipboardTo the untrained, understanding medical coding certification seems a little intimidating. But don’t let that stop you–becoming a certified medical coder can benefit your career in many ways. By proving your expertise, medical coding certification shows future employers that you know your stuff–and it can help you make more money in the end.

While you may be able to get an entry-level coding  job while taking classes, you will not be able to move up the career ladder and take on additional responsibility (and an accompanying larger paycheck) without the appropriate certifications.


Getting Started

Certified Coding Associate (CCA) – This is the entry-level certification for new medical coders. In order for you to become eligible to take the CCA exam, you must have, at the minimum, a high school diploma or its equivalent.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is one of the top two credentialing associations for medical coders. They recommend that before you sign up for the exam, you should either have six months experience coding or you should complete some type of formal training. Either a community college certificate course, an online degree program, or a certificate program that has been approved by AHIMA would be beneficial at this stage. The average person shouldn’t attempt to take the exam without some sort of solid coding background.


Hospital Coding Requirements

The next level of certification offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is a Certified Coding Specialist (CCS). This level of professional certification is designed to recognize skilled professionals who have experience classifying medical data directly from patient records, generally in the hospital setting.

Their tasks include reviewing  patients’ records and assigning numeric codes for each patient’s diagnosis and procedure. To achieve this level of certification, medical coders must excel in proving  thorough knowledge of the ICD-9-CM coding system as well as the CPT coding system, with a particular emphasis on codes that apply to surgical procedures.

A Certified Coding Specialist will also be expected to demonstrate his or knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, disease processes, medical terminology, and pharmacology. Without a good understanding of these subjects, it can be very difficult to sort through all the medical jargon and find the information necessary to code a chart.


Physician Offices Coding Requirements

The next level of certification offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is a Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P).
Without  an effective Certified Coding Specialist in their office, doctors couldn’t keep their doors open.

The role of the CCS-P is to take descriptions of diseases, injuries, conditions, and procedures from patient records and code it so it can be submitted to the government or health insurance companies for reimbursement. A Certified Coding Specialist in a physician- based setting will be expected to demonstrate extensive understanding of the CPT coding system and knowledge of both the ICD-9-CM and HCPCS Level II coding systems.

Coders for a physician will also have to demonstrate competency in understanding human anatomy and physiology, disease processes, medical terminology, and pharmacology.


Specialty credentials

The American Association of Professional Coders offers specialty certifications in a variety of areas, including:

• Emergency Department
• Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat)
• Obstetrics and Gynecology
• Ambulatory Surgical Center
• Orthopedics
• Cardiovascular and Thoracic
• Pediatrics
• Gastroenterology
• Plastic and Reconstructive
• Evaluation and Management Auditor
• Family Practice
• General Surgery Rheumatology
• Urology
• Dermatology
• Anesthesia
• Cardiology
• Internal Medicine

Sometimes, you may find that you have a particular interest in a field–perhaps skin diseases intrigue you, or a complex heart condition. If this is the case, you may want to look for a job within that field.  When you are more interested in the composition of the work, it makes it easier to complete.

About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.

Read Rachel's full bio here...

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