Medical Coding Certification

Without a doubt, obtaining a medical coding certification will properly prepare anyone who has a desire to enter the administrative side of the medical field, for a long and prosperous career.

Within the United States, there are currently over 70,000 healthcare professionals who hold a medical coding certification, and are gainfully employed by physicians, medical practices, clinics, hospitals, and other outpatient facilities. In addition, it is not uncommon to find medical coders employed within the legal community, accounting firms, health insurance providers, government agencies, and pharmacies. Finally, those with an entrepreneurial spirit have the ability of operating their own business and providing medical services form their own home.

A certified medical coder becomes part of an elite group of individuals and the designation is recognized by prospective employers as the gold standard. The healthcare industry is currently in a period of rapid growth and the reliance on healthcare insurance providers is at all time highs. As a result, potential abuse of the system through fraudulent insurance claims is on the rise, leaving medical professionals and related companies at risk. Within the certification education process, coders gain a thorough knowledge in areas such as medical ethics and medical law, thus reducing this potential risk to the employer.

Hiring employees is an expensive proposition and mistakes can be costly. Individuals who possess a medical coding certification provides the medical practitioner or medical facility with assurance that a basic set of industry standards have been met, thus providing an instant level of trust and credibility. In the healthcare industry, budgets and funding for new hires is growing at a much lower rate than the need for new administratively minded individuals.

In general, the industry does not have the time, the money, or the patience to train new medical coders, therefore the onus is placed on the individual to obtain the necessary credentials on their own. In fact, many prospective employers use certification as the minimum threshold for even considering a candidate for a coding position.

A career in medical coding, just like any other career, is what you make of it. It provides the opportunity to reach great heights such as senior administrative positions within hospitals or large insurance companies, or it can lead you to a back room in a small medical practice. Success in the field begins with a basic  coding certification, and in turn furthering this education as experience is gained.

Most employers think long term and look for individuals who have ambition, drive, initiative, and future promise. The first step in displaying these attributes is gaining a certification or at bare minimum, enrolling in a recognized program.

A studied performed by AHIMA, discovered that 67% of all employees employed in the medical coding field who had attained formal credentials, earned more than those who did not. Therefore, it follows that those with a medical coding certification are much more marketable, giving rise to a much greater earning power. It is fine to love your job, love the company, and enjoy the people you work with, however, inadequate compensation can soon take the fun away. Certification in a sense, is a ticket to freedom. No longer are you tied to a particular company or particular position, you have, in a sense the power to choose, the ability to control your own destiny.

Upon making a decision to pursue a career in the medical coding field, the first step is enroll in a medical coding certification program. The current trend is to undertake these programs online as most Universities and other educational institutions offer extensive programs available the comfort of your own home on your own personal computer. Although they generally set certain time frames with which to complete modules, you do have the ability to work at your own pace and set your own study times based on your personal schedule. Depending on the program, courses can be completed within a range of 7 months to 2 years.

Many individuals assume that online programs are easier, however, in actual fact; they are as comprehensive and intense as their in-classroom counterparts. Most educational institutions are extremely accommodating by providing toll-free telephone and online support from instructors and tutors. In addition, most create a community-like atmosphere by setting up chat rooms and forums for student where they can communicate with each other on topics relating to course materials, job prospects, and share industry information.

Course content, pricing, financing options, certifications offered, and services provided do vary by school. Therefore it is essential that an individual do their due diligence by researching a number of them, and basing their decision on the institution which best suits their specific situation. A great starting point is to check out the American Health Information Management Association (ahima.org) website which provides a full listing of approved educational organizations providing certificates in medical coding.

In addition, if your desire is to obtain more advanced education such as a degree or associate certificate you can begin by viewing the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (cahiim.org) where again there is a full listing of institutions offering these types of programs.

Upon completion of a certification course from a recognized college or university, it is time to take the exam. Within the United States, the examinations are administered by two main organizations. The first is AHIMA which offer three basic certification exams. The initial is a designation called Certified Coding Associate or CCA as it is referred to within the industry, and will provide individuals the ability to gain initial access to the medical coding field and comfortably apply to all entry level positions. The more advanced examinations include the Certified Coding Specialist and Certified Coding Specialist – Physician designations, and are not recommended until a level of experience is obtained. The second organization is the American Academy of Professional Coders which again offers a variety of certifications with the most basic being the Certified Professional Coder, or CPC as it is commonly referred to.

Anyone considering a career in medical coding must obtain a medical coding certification. There is both a financial and time commitment involved, however, it should be view as an investment not an expense. The healthcare industry is booming and new job opportunities are being created every day. By positioning yourself with the proper education today, you will see many great opportunities arise tomorrow.