DRG Coding Advisor: New coding credential may interest access staff

It covers basic instruction’

The Chicago-based American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recently announced a new entry-level coding credential. The certified coding associate (CCA) credential is designed for people who have had basic coding instruction, or "just enough experience that would be equivalent to taking a basic coding course," according to Rita Scichilone, AHIMA’s director of coding products and services.

The CCA credential, she adds, will encompass the basic conventions and principles of the coding system — the ICD-9-CM and CPT/HCPCS codes. People who attain this credential should be able to assign codes and enhance up-front billing preparation. This expertise also should help in complying with the electronic data interchange provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, she adds, as the codes addressed are standard code sets.

By offering the credential, AHIMA is attempting to address what it sees as a nationwide shortage of coding expertise, Scichilone explains. "What we were hearing is that people were looking for a certification that followed basic training."

Examinations for AHIMA’s higher-level certified coding specialist (CCS) and CCS-P (for physician-based coders) credentials are much more complex, Scichilone notes. "We don’t require it, but we suggest two to three years’ experience for people seeking those credentials."

AHIMA offers the RHIT and RHIA credentials for people with academic degrees and extensive coding experience, she adds.

The coding basics course will be offered in four 15-week clusters, beginning in September 2002, Scichilone says. To sit for the exam, candidates must have earned a high school diploma from a U.S. high school or have an equivalent education background, she adds. It is strongly recommended that candidates also have at least six months’ experience in a health care organization applying ICD-9-CM and CPT coding conventions or guidelines, or have completed an AHIMA-approved coding certificate program or other formal coding training.

For more information on the coding credentials offered by AHIMA, go to the organization’s web site at www.ahima.org.