How to Choose a Medical Coding Credentialing Organization
The two primary credentialing organizations for medical coding and billing professionals are the AAPC (formerly the American Academy of Professional Coders) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). AHIMA certification covers coding in hospitals, and AAPC certification covers everybody else.
The AAPC was founded in 1988 with two goals: providing education and professional certification to medical coders working in physicians’ offices and setting a higher standard of coding by adhering to accepted standards.
AHIMA’s certifications are primarily directed at coders working in hospitals. Founded in 1928, AHIMA’s original goal was to improve the quality of medical records; today it continues to strive for excellence in medical record integrity with the evolution of electronic medical records.
Both the AAPC and AHIMA offer educational resources and programs including certifications.
Prior to applying for membership in either organization and registering to take a certification exam, research each one to see which best fits your need and your budget. You also may want to find out when and where the local chapter meets and attend a meeting or two just to get the feel of the organization’s culture.
And feel free to press some flesh and talk people up: Both organizations offer network and mentoring opportunities.
The AAPC is widely recognized for credentialing both physician- and hospital-based coders and is expanding to offer physician training services to practices as well as a credential for healthcare attorneys and IT staff. Its training programs are offered throughout the United States.
The organization also offers access to continuing education opportunities and a job database. In addition to regional conferences, the AAPC has a national convention every year, where you can find both educational and networking opportunities. (The regional conferences offer the same opportunities and are usually more economical.)
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
AHIMA is highly respected in the area of hospital and physician coders. The organization offers a variety of training programs, has an annual convention, and conducts workshops lasting several days in a variety of locales. If you choose to be credentialed by the AHIMA, you’ll have access to training and networking opportunities throughout your career.
Although it offers entry-level credentials, AHIMA doesn’t offer apprentice-level certifications as AAPC does. AHIMA certifications are intended for those already intimately familiar with coding.
The benefits of membership in a medical coding credentialing organization
In today’s world of privacy and compliance concerns, certification is the industry standard. Because certification shows that you are proficient in your area and are committed to quality healthcare by disseminating quality information, it’s one of the first qualifications that employers look for when they review you as a potential candidate, and it’s an asset when you’re negotiating a salary.
In addition, the majority of billing companies have contracts with their clients that obligate them to hire only certified coders.
As a member of one of the two main credentialing organizations —AHIMA or AAPC — you’re privy to different professional goodies. Both organizations provide numerous networking opportunities.
In addition, AAPC members receive discounts on certification tests, preparation materials, workshop fees, and numerous other products. They also are automatically subscribed to the association’s monthly publication, The Coding Edge, which keeps members up to date on changes and offers continuing education units.
Similarly, AHIMA members enjoy membership perks such as access to professional publications, discounts on books, and other training opportunities open to members only.