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Both The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) are reputable organizations, though some say that AAPC is more oriented to physician-office coding and AHIMA is more hospital or “in-patient” focused.
Tests for the following three certificates are administered by AHIMA. If you meet the requirements for a certificate, you can apply to take a test in your area at AHIMA’s website.
Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
If you have recently completed a coding degree, the CCA certification gives you the first credential you need to work in a medical environment. It’s an entry-level certification you can use to start building your career on. To be eligible for the CCA test, you need a high school diploma. It’s recommended, but not required, that you have at least six month’s experience working in a medical office or a certificate from a coding program. Virtually all coding certifications require you to have a good understanding of the Health Information Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA), the federal law that protects patient rights and guarantees that their medical records will be kept confidential.
Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
This is a more advanced certification, which proves you can operate the current state-of-the-art coding systems – the ICD-9-CM and the surgery system of the CPT (Current Procedural Terminology). This credential can get you a higher-paying job, but it requires that you understand a good deal about pharmacology and medical terminology. Eligibility requirements include experience in a hospital-based coding environment and course study in physiology and pharmacology, along with other medical specialties.
Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P)
Provides you with certification to work on physician’s offices, clinics and other treatment environments. For this, you need to be familiar not just with ICD-9-CM and CPT, but also the Level 2 coding systems known as HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System). Eligibility requirements include experience in a physician-based coding environment using codes in surgery anesthesiology and other specialties, and some course study in anatomy, physiology and other medical specialties.
AAPC’s certifications are slightly different. They offer:
Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
This is for coders working in physician’s offices, either private or hospital-based, home health agencies or with auditors of insurance claims.
Certified Professional Coder – Hospital (CPC-H)
For coding in hospital outpatient billing, ambulatory surgical centers and other outpatient centers.
Certified Professional Coder – Payer (CPC-P)
A new certification created in 2009, primarily for claims managers at insurance companies and auditors.
Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC)
An advanced certification for coders working in radiology and cardiovascular charging and coding.
For information on testing and qualifications for AAPC’s certifications, visit their website.
Online Medical Coding Degrees
Medical coding is definitely an area where you can benefit from an online degree. Typical courses involved in an online coding degree include human anatomy, medical terminology, computer fundamentals, procedural terminology, CP coding, ICD-9-CM coding and pathology.