The American Health Information Management Association, known by those in the medical billing and coding field as AHIMA (and also the subject of a previous article) is one of several prominent organizations which offers important certifications. Although these are not required by law, employers can state any certification as a preference or requirement for hire. Some important AHIMA certifications are:
- Registered Health Information Administrator – RHIA
- Registered Health Information Technician – RHIT
- Certified Coding Associate – CCA
- Certified Coding Specialist – CCS
To gain these certifications, candidates need to meet prerequisites as determined by AHIMA and pass a qualifying exam. The exams are in a four-option multiple-choice format which evaluate a candidate’s specific knowledge as demonstrated through his or her ability to memorize, apply, and analyze pertinent information. The current passing score for each exam is 75 percent.
Registered Health Information Administrator – RHIA
Having an RHIA certification means a professional will be adept at medical coding classifications and associated terminologies as they pertain to the health care system and patient records. The professional will also be well versed in legal and administrative standards in the health care industry. A RHIA-certified professional will act as an important intermediary between health care providers, patients, and payers. A particular expertise in administrative functions is highlighted with this certification.
Candidates can become eligible to take the RHIA certification exam if they have completed a bachelor degree-level Health Information Management (HIM) program that is accredited by CAHIIM or one of its approved foreign associates.
The RHIA exam is 180 questions with four hours allowed for completion, and covers:
- Health data management
- Health statistics and research support
- Information systems and technology
- Organization and management
- Privacy, confidentiality, and security
- Regulatory and legal standards
Registered Health Information Technician – RHIT
RHIT professionals specialize in medical record quality. This includes an emphasis on diagnosis and procedure coding, as well as patient data analysis. Most RHIT certified professionals work in hospitals, but also have a strong presence in other agencies which manage large amounts of patient data and health information.
Candidates are eligible to take the RHIT certification exam if they have completed an associate degree-level Health Information Management (HIM) program that is accredited by CAHIIM or one of its approved foreign associates.
The RHIT exam is comprised of 150 questions with three-and-a-half hours allowed for completion. The exam covers:
- Data management and analysis
- Quality control
- Legal issues
- Revenue cycle
Certified Coding Assistant – CCA
Certified Coding Assistants have a solid grounding in coding in any setting, from hospitals to private physician practices. The only requirement to become a CCA is a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED. However AHIMA recommends having direct work experience in the coding field and the completion of an AHIMA-approved coding program or any other program that is useful for coding training.
The CCA exam is comprised of 100 questions with two hours allowed for completion, and covers:
- Clinical classification systems
- Methodologies of reimbursement
- Data content and health records
- Privacy and Confidentiality
Certified Coding Specialist – CCS
Certified Coding Specialists will find their largest employers to be hospitals, but these professionals can work anywhere where their expertise in classifying patient records from medical data is in demand. CCS professionals assign codes to patient records for diagnosis and procedures and have a foundational knowledge in medical and health care coding.
Becoming qualified to take the CCS exam requires meeting one of the following conditions:
- Having a CCS-P (Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based), RHIA, or RHIT certification
- Completing a medical coding training program whose curriculum includes:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Reimbursement methodology
- ICD (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) and CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) coding
- Medical terminology
- Two years of direct coding experience
- CCA certification and one year of direct coding experience
- Another coding credential and one year of direct coding experience
The CCA exam involves 81 multiple-choice questions, eight selection questions, and 12 medical record case questions. The subjects covered are:
- Procedure and diagnosis coding
- Health information documentation
- Regulatory guidelines and reporting requirements for outpatient services
- Regulatory guidelines and reporting requirements for acute care
- Data management and quality
- IT and communication technology
- Legal and ethical issues
- Privacy and confidentiality