In the medical and health insurance industries, it is essential to record and maintain accurate profiles of patients in terms of medical history, diagnosis, and services received. This is the domain of medical coders, the technicians that specialize in compiling medical information through the use of computerized health information management systems. It is the responsibility of the medical coder to select the appropriate code designation for each type of diagnosis and procedure and assigning the patient to a diagnosis-related group (DRG). Obviously, this requires specialized knowledge, which is acquired through training and demonstrated with medical coding certification.
There are several levels and areas of specialty regarding medical coding certification. Entry-level into this field is achieved by becoming a Certified Coding Associate (CCA). Prerequisites for this certification include a high school diploma or equivalent, completion of an accredited coding certificate program, and at least six months experience in a healthcare or medical facility that applies ICD-9 codes and CPT coding methodology.
The next advancement in medical coding certification is that of Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), which incorporates basic coding skills with more detailed knowledge of patient record review standards, medical terms, diseases, and pharmacology. This is the certification level most sought after to work in a hospital or clinical setting. In fact, most successful medical coders possess this certification at minimum. More advanced certifications include Physician-based Coding Specialist (CCS-P), Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS), Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT), and Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA).
In terms of formal education, there are no degreed programs in medical coding available. However, most medical coders of all certification levels obtain a minimum of an associate’s degree from a community college prior to entering the field. Training for medical coding certification itself is another matter. In the U.S. alone, there are numerous colleges and universities that offer medical coding certification courses that are accredited by the American Health Information Management Association. Many of these schools offer flexible scheduling to accommodate those who already work full-time and those living long-distance from campus, including complete certification training online.
Recent developments in this field reflect trends toward part-time medical coding and home based medical coding. Certification for the latter is provided by The Board of Medical Specialty Coding, which offers Home Care Coding Specialist – Diagnosis certification. The new offering is the ICD-9 Home Health Basics Competency examination, which is designed for those who are already employed in the medical field but which only need to possess a basic understanding of medical coding rules and procedures.