Medical coders work for private practice medical professionals, insurance companies, hospitals and medical clinics assigning alphanumeric ‘codes’ to thousands of different procedures, diagnoses and specialized equipment used to treat patients. Medical coding is necessary for streamlining the billing process and demands exceptional knowledge of medical terms by coders as well as impressive memory skills and attention to accuracy.
Although medical coding certification is not necessary to seek employment as a medical coder, earning medical coding certification not only improves the chance of gaining long-term employment but also increases the potential for higher wages.
How to Earn Medical Coding Certification
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is the most widely recognized agency providing medical coding certification. Officially called the Certified Coding Associate certification (CCA), this designation only requires that students have a high school diploma or GED before taking the examination. Although completing a medical coding program course is not necessary to take the test, AHIMA strongly recommends finding a coding program that has been approved by their association, completing that program and gaining a least six months of experience as a medical coder before taking the certification exam.
Medical Coding Examination Contents
Topics on the coding certification exam include:
- Definitions and short essay questions regarding medical coding terms
- Questions about the different kinds of modifiers
- Recognition of acronyms
- Test cases providing summarized medical reports that the student is expected to correctly code for using multiple code sets offered in the set of answers
General knowledge questions are also included on the test that are related to human anatomy, diseases and procedures. In addition, students should be aware that questions are not grouped under specific topics. For example, a question about jaundice might be followed by a question about HIPPA, followed by a coding question. Students need a score of 70 or higher to pass the test. One free retake is permitted if the student fails their first test.