The demand for billing and coding professionals is growing throughout the healthcare industry. Billing and coding certifications are offered through online classes or in a classroom setting through many colleges or technical training schools, and training generally takes one year or less. Once appropriate course work is completed, a test will be required before you can become certified. Becoming a certified medical coder usually affords the opportunity for higher paying health care jobs. Billing and coding certification are often different exams, so knowing which type of certification you need is important.
Many of the institutions that offer billing and coding certification also assist in finding appropriate healthcare jobs, once the courses are successfully completed. Billing and coding certification is not always required to work as a medical coder; however, more often than not, hospitals and other health care facilities prefer staff to be certified. In many cases, billing codes need to be accurate, or claim payments could be delayed or denied. Certification courses offer instruction on the complex rules and regulations regarding government and private insurance filing procedures.
If a new employee is not already certified, many employers will require billing and coding certification be completed within a specified time frame. This is usually required within six months of employment. As a convenience and benefit to employees, some healthcare facilities have become certified testing sites, and can offer course work and examinations for billing and coding certification.
In the US, there are several levels of certification as it relates to coding, depending on the organization through which certification is earned. The American Academy of Professional coders offers credentials, including Certified Professional Coder (CPC®), Certified Professional Coder – Outpatient Hospital (CPC-H®), Certified Professional Coder – Payer (CPC-P®), and Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC®), as well as specialized certifications. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), and Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P) certifications, among others. The American Medical Billing Association (AMBA) and American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) offer certification for medical billing specialists.
Once certified, medical coders often need to obtain continued education units (CEUs), generally offered through the same institution where the original billing and coding certification was obtained. Seminars are also a way of obtaining CEUs. Certification is valid for a specified length of time, and usually must be renewed or updated with continuing education.
In the US, the industry standard is five CEU credits annually. CEUs will often suffice for certification renewal, as long as the certification time period has not elapsed. If the certification has elapsed, it may be necessary to retest to receive a current coding certification.