Certified Coding Specialist (AHIMA CCS)

What is a CCS and its roles?

Certified Coding Specialists (CCS) are skilled in differentiating medical data from patient records, generally done in a hospital setting. Some of their duties as a practitioner involve:

  • Review patients’ records and assign numeric codes for each diagnosis and procedure
  • Obtain the required expertise in the ICD-10-CM and CPT coding systems
  • Fluent about medical terminology, disease processes, and pharmacology

Several facilities and institutions make use of a CCSs’ skills, including:

  • Hospitals and medical providers take the coded data created by CCSs to insurance companies—or to the government in the case of Medicare and Medicaid recipients—for reimbursement of expenses
  • Researchers and public health officials also use this data to track patterns and search for new interventions

Coding accuracy is highly important to healthcare organizations, and has plays a critical role on revenues and describing health outcomes. Today, certification has become an implicit industry standard. Accordingly, the CCS credential shows a practitioner’s tested data quality and integrity skills, and mastery of coding proficiency. This certification is intended for anyone, most especially to professionals experienced in coding inpatient and outpatient records.

What are the prerequisites in taking this certification?

If you want to take the CCS examination, you must have the basics such as your high school diploma or an equivalent like the GED. Beyond that, AHIMA recommends (but doesn’t require) that you have a minimum of three years’ experience in a hospital setting coding for multiple types of inpatient and outpatient cases.

AHIMA also recommends that you are proficient in anatomy, pharmacology, and the disease processes. You’ll also want to have a demonstrated proficiency in obtaining relevant information from patient records. The CCS is able to assign procedure codes and the supporting diagnosis codes. With this, healthcare provides heavily rely on competent coders to report data that is used for reimbursement.

Also, public health agencies and research organizations use data derived from your coding patterns to determine developing needs of the industry. Thus, your coding has enduring effects that go well beyond reimbursement for the provider.

Why do you need to certify?

The fundamental purpose of any professional certification program is to offer an independent, dependable assessment of the knowledge and skills comprehension required for having an edge in performing a professional role. This assessment, like any other, is typically accomplished by the successful completion of the given examination.

What is the kind of certification examination provided in CCS?

Here are some important information you need to know and expect upon applying and taking the CCS exam:

Cost: As of now, the cost for CCS examinations is $299 for AHIMA members and $399 for non-members — which is why it pays to be a member of AHIMA before you sign up
for the CCS test.

Number and types of questions: The CCS exam consists of 81 multiple-choice questions. (Of these, 18 are considered “pre-test” questions. The pre-test questions aren’t counted in your score; they are just used to assess the usability of the test itself.) In addition to the multiple-choice questions, the test also includes a fill-in-the-blank portion that consists of medical record cases that you have to respond to. All of these exam questions are based on medical terminology and coding examples and that include questions based on pharmacology (drugs and the conditions they’re prescribed to treat).

Time: Examinees are given 4 hours to completely finish the entire exam process. It doesn’t have any breaks, so be sure to make time for using the restroom before you go in the exam room.

Resources you can use during the test: During the test, you can use approved books (listed on the AHIMA Website), but you can’t and aren’t allowed to use any kind of coding software. Moreover, other things that not allowed during the exam includes: cell phones or other electronic devices, food or drinks, or purses.

ID: To get into the test, you need two forms of signed identification, at least one of which has a picture of you. Examples of acceptable IDs include a valid drivers’ license, military ID, passport, Social Security card, credit or debit card, and so on.

Receiving scores: After you take the test, you have to wait until AHIMA releases your test results, and times may vary. You can contact AHIMA directly to get an approximate turnaround time. If, for some reason, you weren’t able to pass the said exam, you have to wait at least 91 days before you can apply for a re-test. The re-test requires another test fee, and you have to go through the whole application process again.


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