If you have a career likeprofessional medical coder, one of your first goals is to find out the qualifications or credentials that will help you get into the business.
One of the first things you'll learn is that professional certification is highly recommended.
There are two organizations that will be highlighted in your research: AAPC and AHIMA. Each of them is considered the gold standard for coding certification, but it can be hard to tell the difference between them. Add in the acronyms for each organization's certification programs and it quickly becomes a confusing alphabet soup.
Let's break down the similarities and differences so you can choose the training program and qualification that will set you up for success.
What is AAPC certification?
AAPC stands for American Association of Professional Coders. They offer more than a dozen different medical coding certifications at different institutions and specialties. They also offer certifications in medical billing, testing, documentation, compliance, and practice management.
The most popular AAPC certification is Certified Professional Coder (CPC).
What is the AHIMA certification?
AHIMA stands for American Health Information Association. They offer about half a dozen certifications, mostly focused on health information coding and management.
The most popular AHIMA certification is the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS).
What do AHIMA and AAPC have in common?
Both organizations can issue respected certifications of your professional knowledge and skills. They use the same medical coding systems, namelyCPT and HCPCS codes for medical proceduresand services and ICD codes for medical diagnoses.
Both organizations offer somewhat separate designations for relatively new programmers and more experienced programmers so that your resume can reflect both your experience level and competency. Both are offering certifications that cover inpatients at this point in their growth.Youtpatient coding practices.
Both the CPC and CCS exams test your ability to use medical codes correctly. Both are computer-based and similar in length and cost, although the CPC exam is a bit longer. You can also find training programs and test preparation resources for both.
What is the difference between AHIMA and AAPC?
There are many small differences between organizations, but the main differences are what jobs they train you for.
Although both organizations now offer inpatient and outpatient programs, they used to specialize. Historically, AAPC coding has been associated with outpatient services, while AHIMA coding has been associated with inpatient facilities.
In recent years they have expanded their offer. AAPC now holds CPC Certification for Physician Practices, COC Certification for Ambulatory Hospitals and Surgical Centers, and CIC Certification for Inpatient Hospitals. AHIMA now has CCS for hospitals and CCS-P for doctor's offices.
At this point, many people argue that the difference is minimal at first. Some employers will accept the correct type of certification from both organizations equally.
However, many employers still base their hiring preferences on what is familiar to them. This means that AAPC is even more popular in the outpatient setting and AHIMA is even more popular in the inpatient setting. It may be easier to get hired if you're registered with the "right" organization.
The biggest differences come later in your career.
If you want to advance your career in coding for a specific medical specialty like cardiology, you need an AAPC residency certification. There are no equivalent certifications available through AHIMA.
If you want to advance to administration, the configuration will determine your choice. AAPC holds a number of certifications relevant to auditing and practice management in medical practices. AHIMA's Health Information Certifications are probably better suited to larger organizations such as hospitals.
It is important to note that most medical coders hold certifications from both organizations. Choosing where to get your initial certification doesn't “tether” you to that organization or even to a specific career path.
Should you get an AHIMA or AAPC coding certification?
If you're already involved in an inpatient or outpatient setting, you should probably contact the organization most closely associated with that type of work. In other words, get an AAPC coding certification for outpatient work and an AHIMA coding certification for hospital work.
But maybe you're not ready yet. He knows he's interested in medical coding, but he's not sure where he fits in. It's probably a good idea to find out first.
What is the difference between outpatient and inpatient coding?
Well, first, what's the difference between outpatients and inpatients, period?
Outpatient means that the patient is not admitted to a hospital or facility for a long-term stay. Most outpatient visits last less than 24 hours, although an overnight stay can technically be outpatient. Think doctor's offices, emergency care centers, emergency rooms, specialty clinics, and outpatient surgical centers.
Inpatient means being admitted to a facility for an extended stay, including acute and long-term hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, psychiatric institutions, and outpatient health services. Visits usually last at least 2 days.
Why is this important to the medical coder? They essentially have different encryption policies.
On the one hand, procedural codes come from different places. Additionally, inpatient facilities assign codes based on total stay and reimbursement is based on diagnostic group. Inpatient coding allows for ambiguous, "probable" or "presumptive" diagnoses. Outpatient centers assign codes based on a single visit, reimbursement is based on facility fees, and uncertain diagnoses are not allowed. When the diagnosis is ambiguous, outpatient centers code the patient's symptoms.
Should you become an outpatient or hospital coder?
One of the biggest questions to ask yourself is whether you want a clean coding job or something more sophisticated.
Due to differences in coding policies, outpatient coding tends to be easier. Outpatient coders treat symptoms or definitive diagnoses, as well as a limited number of services delivered during short visits.
Stationary encoding tends to be more of a challenge for the encoder. Programmers often describe it as a puzzle or mystery to be solved.
There are a few reasons why stationary coding is more complex. Due to the long stay and complicated nature of care, which can involve many people and departments, more information needs to be coded for each patient. Inpatient coding also requires a presence on admission (POA) indicator to distinguish between a patient's symptoms at the time of admission and any symptoms or complications that arise during their stay. Finally, the coding of uncertain diagnoses and irregular findings often requires professional judgment.
In other words, inpatient coding requires more critical thinking and accurate interpretation of medical records before medical codings can be correctly applied. Errors or misjudgments can have important consequences, for the bill, but also for the health of the patient. For example, your decisions regarding uncertain diagnoses and inconsistent findings may influence diagnosis and treatment for future hospital visits.
Beyond the level of difficulty, you should also consider possible jobs and income. Outpatient coders work in smaller medical offices, while inpatient coders are more likely to work in a hospital billing office. Both professions offer the opportunity to do so.some medical coding jobs from home. Due to the complexity, stationary coding is more worthwhile. Meanwhile, ambulatory coding offers more opportunities to do coding.YAccounting, for more variety at work.
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