Certification - American Health Information Management Association

Chapter 4

If you're going to become a part of the medical coding industry, you're going to find The American Health Information Management Association is a valuable resource that extends far beyond certification - they offer professional development courses, exam preparation materials and audio seminars.

Taking and passing the exam, thus earning you certification, will show employers you have the knowledge and competence it takes to do the job, even if you have little experience. It will also give you an edge over new coders who don't have certification.

To be eligible to take sit the CCA exam, you are required to have, at minimum, a high school diploma or its equivalent.

AHIMA advises that before you sit the exam, you either have six months experience coding or you have completed some type of formal training (a community college certificate course or an online degree program, for example) or a certificate program approved by AHIMA. To find a list of AHIMA-approved program, click here.

To apply for the CCA exam, you can visit the AHIMA website. For members of AHIMA, the exam fee is $195 and $250 for non-members.

- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) - The Certified Coding Specialist certification is for experienced medical coders. The majority of medical coders who sit the CCS exam work in hospitals and have experience coding emergency room, ambulatory surgery, and inpatient records. Therefore, medical coders must be proficient in ICD-9 coding and CPT surgical coding and have extensive knowledge of medical terminology, pharmacology and disease process.

The CCS exam consists of two sections: the first section consists of 60 multiple choice questions, and the second part 13 medical record coding cases.

AHIMA members are required to pay a $300 exam fee, and non-members are charged a $385 fee.

- Certified Coding Specialist - Physician-based. The CCS-P is specifically for medical coders with experience and extensive knowledge of coding. Medical coders who sit the CCS-P generally work in physicians' offices, clinics and similar settings.

The CCS-P exam consists of two parts: in part one, you'll have to answer 60 multiple choice questions, and in part two, you'll complete 16 medical record coding cases. AHIMA members pay $300 for the CCS-P exam while non-members pay $385.

Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) - Experienced medical coders who want to expand their work responsibilities often become Registered Health Information Technicians. An RHIT's responsibilities include:

  • Ensure medical records are accurate and complete
  • Verify the medical records have been properly entered in the computer system
  • Code diagnoses and procedures, specifically for research and/or reimbursement

- Registered Health Information Technicians, who often have bachelor's degrees and generally work in hospitals, often move onto management positions.

The RHIT exam has a $185 fee for AHIMA members and $235 for non-members. You can learn more by visiting the AHIMA website.

To maintain certification, medical coders must complete 21 continuing education credits annually. Coders also have to take an annual self-assessment, which equals five continuing education credits.

You can sign up for an exam or learn more by visiting the American Health Information Management Association.