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Medical Billing and Coding in Wyoming

Medical coding is everywhere. It is used to describe everything from the work of the ambulance and paramedic crew to the services performed at the very rural Wyoming clinic. Medical billing and coding professionals train and work from just about every location, too. Medical Billing and Coding programs are widely available online. A good foundation can mean far more opportunities. Increasingly, medical coders are certified. The two main certifying agencies, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the AAPC, are national in scope. There are state and local chapters to help professionals stay connected.

AHIMA has traditionally been the certifying agency for hospital or “facility” coding; the AAPC, for physician’s office or “practice” coding. At this point, however, both offer coding credentials applicable to all settings. The AAPC offers a medical billing credential and various specialty coding credentials while AHIMA offers credentials that include coding but are broader in scope.

Medical coding can be demanding. Employers may set accuracy as high as 95% to 97%.

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Billing and Coding Programs in Wyoming and Online

Medical billing and coding education programs vary greatly in comprehensiveness as well as format. Students may want to consider the following: examination preparation, degree or credit granted, and pre-professional experience opportunities.

It is not necessary to have a college degree. However, it is an asset. Some individuals opt for health information management programs at the associate's level. These are especially valuable for professionals who want to enter the hospital inpatient coding arena. This can qualify them to take the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) examination. Individuals who earn RHIT credentialing are also qualified to take AHIMA coding certification examinations without further education or experience.

Degrees in other fields are also valued, though they will not shorten the path to professional certification. Sometimes degree and experience are both taken into account; a person may receive consideration on the basis of one or the other. One Wyoming hospital, for example, recently advertised for a coding specialist who had either two years of experience or an RHIT or RHIA credential; the RHIA is a higher level credential available only to professionals who have completed bachelor’s degrees in health information management.

It is common to enter the medical coding profession with coding education at the certificate level. Many programs last about a year. Some, though, are much shorter.

Some schools allow students to complete education in stages. They may, for example, begin with medical office training, then complete a medical coding certificate, and then complete an associate degree.

The medical billing or coding professional can then seek professional certification at the level of his or her training. Programs may offer preparation for specific certification examinations. They may utilize curriculum and/ or technologies granted by a particular certifying body. Formal educational requirements are minimal for candidates who wish to take the AHIMA’s entry-level examination, the Certified Coding Associate (CCA). However, individuals who wish to take more difficult or specialized AHIMA coding examinations (the Certified Coding Specialist or Certified Coding Specialist-Physician based) at the onset will need a specific body of coursework. They will need to make sure that their coding coursework is at the intermediate/ advanced level and that it includes ICD-10 diagnosis and procedural coding as well as CPT coding. Additional eligibility requirements are described on the AHIMA website (http://www.ahima.org/certification). Candidates who meet minimum stated requirements may still find the exam quite challenging. In 2015, 56% of candidates who attempted the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) passed on their first try; 45% who attempted the Certified Coding Specialist-Physician based (CCS-P) did.

Students vying for AAPC credentials are not required to have formal education in medical coding. However, it can facilitate entry into the field. Individuals who take the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Professional Coder-Payer (CPC-P), or Certified Outpatient Coder (COC) examination begin with an apprentice designation if they are not sufficiently experienced. The amount of experience required depends on whether the person has completed a formal program in coding (https://www.aapc.com/certification/medical-coding-certification.aspx).

Accredited health information programs include practicum experiences. Some other programs do as well. These experiences are an opportunity to make professional connections as well as gain skills. Individuals who find, after graduation, that they need more experience may turn to the organization that granted them their entry-level credential. Both the AAPC and AHIMA have on-site apprenticeship or practicum programs. However, these programs are not available in all locations. The AAPC has an online practicum program that can be used to remove the ‘A’ designation.

The Billing and Coding Certification Process

The examinations are administered at sites around the nation. AHIMA examinations are available through Pearson VUE. Candidates must first apply to AHIMA and have credentials confirmed. Fees are paid to AHIMA. Approved candidates are issued ATTS, valid for four months. Candidates can search for participating sites on the AHIMA page of the Pearson VUE website (http://www.pearsonvue.com/AHIMA/). There is a site in Casper. Some candidates may find the Billings, Montana or Denver, Colorado site more convenient. Candidates are advised to make sure the particular examination sought is available at the selected Pearson VUE center.

AAPC examinations are scheduled on set dates. Candidates must be AAPC members. Candidates can search for tests on the AAPC site. The Sheridan AAPC chapter currently hosts examinations approximately quarterly.

Continuing Education

Continuing education opportunities are widely available. Much of the content is online and on-demand. Continuing education is important for a number of reasons. It is necessary to renew credentials. It can also help professionals advance or enter new settings or new specialty areas. Practicode is available in some specialty practice areas.

Additional Resources

The Wyoming Health Information Management Association is the state AHIMA chapter (http://www.wyhima.org/).

Wyoming has one local AAPC chapter, located in Sheridan.