Q: “I am very interested in becoming a certified medical coder; however, I don’t know which certificate to study for. I have 34 years of outpatient hospital bill experience alone with some coding practice at a major hospital.”
That right there is awesome that they want to take all of that experience and get certified in that.
“I am presently retired and would like to get certified to do remote medical coding. Should I go for a CPC, COC, or CCS certification?”
A: We’re going to break down what each of those are.
In looking at the different types of certifications, of course the first one I mentioned was CPC. Now that is through the AAPC of course. That is one of the core credentials that AAPC offers.
That is a certified professional coder. You take this one and you can go anywhere in the medical field with a CPC. You can be pretty general; you get to work specifically in a family practice and podiatry and psychiatry, physical therapy. You can go anywhere with the CPC certification. You can work in the hospital, you can work for doctor’s office, you can work remotely. It’s a general idea of going over all of ICD-10-CM, the CPT HCPCS and on training surgical coding with all of the 10,000-60,000 procedures, going over some documentation as well, so learning some of that and the guidelines of course. But they also include with CPT some compliance and some of the regulations that are out there in dealing with codes.
For COC, that’s the Certified Outpatient Coder. That again is an AAPC certification and that is you’re looking at now your outpatient documentation, becoming an expert in reading all of that outpatient documentation. You want to be able to review all that information from things like the emergency room, or even an ambulatory surgical center and you’re still going to use your ICD-10-CM, your CPT, your HCPCS, and they also going to go into some of their outpatient payment methodologies. So those things we don’t really deal with very often in the CPC or in the office side. So that’s a little bit different, learning a little bit more about that type of field.
The CCS is a Certified Coding Specialist. That is an AHIMA certification. AHIMA, like Alicia mentioned pretty much started from hospital-based coding and they deal a lot on the hospital side, outpatient and inpatient. That’s looking over your medical records typically in that hospital setting, you again have your expertise in ICD-10-CM and CPT, they do a lot of medical terminology well and the disease processes and pharmacology. They also include that in their CCS.
This little blurb I took off of their website and they have eligibility requirements actually for their certifications, so you either need to have some experience or credential from another organization or just through plain education, so they want to make sure that their coders truly know their stuff as well, so everybody does it their own little way.
But for somebody looking at which one of those three options to go to, my personal opinion with this person with 34 years of experience, mainly in the hospital setting, you’re going to probably want to go something more in the hospital setting.
I actually found this link on the AAPC website. It was pretty interesting. There are also two other, they do a comparison of four different of their credentials that they offer. So, CPC and COC and then they did CRC, I believe, and CPMA, but the link is there to look at them and compare them if you want. If this is something you’re thinking about, “I want to get a different certification.” Or, “Where do I start exactly if this…” You’ve heard about medical coding and you want to get into it, which one is best suited for you to start with. Where they have read more on the website you can click that open and it gives all sorts of information.
But you’re mainly dealing, you can see the code books, you can use the same locations to work in. The CPC, typically, you’re going to work in a physician office. If you have a COC, you’re mainly going to work in a hospital or facility or ambulatory surgery center. So, trying to figure out which of those options is best suited for you, there’s a lot of information here on that website to figure out which way you need to go. It depends on a few different components. Of course, how much money do you need to invest in this and into this education to become a coder, which you want to go through AAPC or AHIMA and try to think of the things like their annual dues, how many CEUs you need? What’s the cost to getting those CEUs? How much time is it going to take? The person who asked this question had a whole lot of experience.
If they wanted to go the CCS route with AHIMA, they’ve met that one requirement for prerequisite for their certification course. So, how much time do you know your medical terminology, do you know your anatomy? How much do you need to invest timewise in a certification? What feels right for you. This person apparently really like working in the hospital so maybe that outpatient coder is going to be a lot better suited towards their experience and they will just feel so comfortable. It will feel like they’re sitting right there at home and if they want to work remote. Yeah, they are sitting in their home. But they have that behind them and they go, “This is perfect. This is exactly what I am fitted for, best suited for.”
The availability – Do you live in an area that has a lot of hospitals? Maybe if you want outpatient certification, do you have availability to do that? I know this person was looking at remote, but that is something to think about in any certification you want to get. Is there availability for me to do it? If you live in a small town and there’s only three doctors offices there, you may not have much availability; so trying to think about what is in your area or how far you’re going to drive or commute to one of those different types of facilities.