Continuing Education for Medical Coding and Billing Professionals - dummies

Continuing Education for Medical Coding and Billing Professionals

Regardless of which medical coding and billing certification(s) you choose, you’ve got to participate in some continuing education to maintain it. The healthcare industry is constantly evolving. Codes change. Rules change. Medicare policies change. Every year, diagnosis codes and new CPT codes are added while older codes are retired. Soon you’ll have to consider the change to ICD-10. Continuing education keeps you up to date on all the pertinent changes.

Add up the continuing ed units (CEUs)

The number of continuing education units (CEUs) you need varies based on the type of certification(s) you have. Each specialty certification requires units in that specialty in addition to the basic certification requirements.

Number of Certifications CEUs Required
1 certification 36 CEUs every two years
2 certifications 48 CEUs every two years with specialty-specific
3 certifications 60 CEUs, with specialty-specific requirements
4 certifications 72 CEUs every two years
5+ certifications 80 CEUs every two years, with specialty-specific certification

The CIRCC (Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder), CPMA (Certified Professional Medical Auditor), and CPCO (Certified Professional Compliance Officer) certifications require that at least 24 of the CEUs in a two-year period be credential-specific.

Ask your credentialing organization about how many CEUs are needed for each credential before you decide which program to go with. Knowing how much time is involved later may help you make the wisest decision now.

AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) continuing education requirements differ slightly. They require completion of CEUs in addition to mandatory annual coding self-assessments (available through AHIMA). The level of certification dictates the number of CEUs required per two-year cycle: CCA, CCS, and CCS-P require 20 CEUs in addition to two self-assessments per cycle. RHIA, CHDA, CHP, and CHS each require 30 CEUs. The RHIT requirement is 20 CEUs.

Multiple AHIMA certifications require different numbers of CEUs, depending on the individual certifications. You can find out about specific requirements on the AHIMA website.

How to earn medical coding and billing continuing education credits

You earn CEUs by attending workshops, professional boot camps, and webinars and by taking quizzes linked to professional articles in coding magazines or technical publications.

The credentialing organization determines the number of CEUs the various activities offer after evaluating the educational content of a program. The number of CEUs associated with an activity normally coincides with that activity’s time commitment. One hour equals one CEU.

Exceptions are meetings and workshops. Often, organization meetings earn you ½ or 1 CEU, even though these activities last two or more hours. (Time is counted for the time spent in actual learning, not in coffee or lunch breaks and definitely not for meeting with vendors to grab your take-home goodies!)

Make sure your credentialing organization has approved the activity you want to use as a CEU. Approved articles, quizzes, meetings, webinars, and so on display the organization’s approval seal, along with the number of CEUs you can earn.

Each time you earn a CEU, you receive a certificate that has an index number that you register with the AAPC. This number verifies that the CEU is authentic. Go to AAPC’s online CEU tracker (available to members) and enter the index number into the tracker.

Be sure to hold on to the paper copies of your certificates, though. You’ll need them in the event that you’re randomly selected for a CEU audit.