A medical coding certification demonstrates your commitment to medical coding. It also places you in a better position to make more money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers prefer to hire credentialed medical coders and certified coders earn approximately 17 percent more than non-credentialed coders. So, if you are seeking better job opportunities, more money and greater professional success, getting a medical coding certification is a good place to begin.
Hospital-based Versus Physician-based Medical Coding Certification Credentials
Many inpatient coders are outpatient coders first. Outpatient coding refers to most medical coding done in the healthcare industry. All of the coding for doctors offices, clinics, outpatient care facilities, etc. is considered outpatient coding.
Inpatient coding is done in hospitals for patients admitted for extended stays. On average, this coding is more complex because it involves longer patient records. As a result, inpatient coding positions typically require more education, experience, or certification, but there is also usually more advancement opportunity because the positions are typically in larger organizations.
Key Medical Coding Certification Organizations
The two main organizations are AHIMA and the AAPC. Both offer medical coding certifications for physician and hospital-based settings.
AHIMA’s top medical coding certifications are:
- CCA ($199 for AHIMA members; $299 for non-members): This allows medical coders to demonstrate their medical coding competency in any setting – hospitals and physician practices.
To be eligible to take this exam, you will need:
- High School Diploma or Equivalency (required)
- Six months coding experience directly applying codes; or
- Completion of an AHIMA-approved coding program; or
- Completion of other coding training program to include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, Basic ICD/diagnostic procedural and basic CPT® coding
- CCS ($299 for AHIMA members; 399 for non-members): This medical coding certification exam demonstrate mastery level skills as an inpatient and out-patient hospital coder.
- CCS-P ($299 for AHIMA members; 399 for non-members): This medical coding certification exam demonstrate mastery level skills as a physician based coder.
To be eligible, to take either of these exams, you will need:
- Have another credential already (RGIA, RHIT, CCS or CCS-P); or
- Completion of a coding training program that includes anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic/procedural and CPT® coding; or
- Minimum of two years of related coding experience directly applying codes; or
- CCA plus one years of coding experience directly applying codes; or
- Coding credential from other certifying organization plus one year coding experience directly applying codes.
For information on how to prepare for these exams, visit: AHIMA Medical Coding Certification Info
The AAPCs’ core medical coding certifications are:
CPC ($300): This credential allows you to code in physician office settings.
After passing the exam, you will know how to read a medical chart and assign the correct diagnosis (ICD-9), procedure (CPT), and supply (HCPCS Level II) codes for a wide variety of clinical cases and services.
CPC-H ($300): This medical coding certification is geared to people working in an outpatient or ambulatory billing and coding settings. The CPC-H exam validates specialized payment knowledge needed for these jobs in addition to CPT® and ICD-9 coding skills.
CPC-P ($300): This credential meets the growing demand for certified coders in a payer environment. It demonstrates a coder’s aptitude, proficiency and knowledge of coding guidelines and reimbursement methodologies for all types of services from the payer’s perspective.