What is a certified professional medical coder?

When it comes to getting a job in healthcare, you might be surprised at the number of opportunities that are available. Aside from the well-known roles that involve lots of face time with patients, there are plenty of administrative jobs which are both fulfilling and financially rewarding.

Working as a certified professional coder (CPC) is a great example of this, but what does the job involve and what does it take to attain certification?

The basics

The simplest explanation of what a CPC does is hidden within the name of the role itself. Their main duty is to convert complex diagnoses and medical procedures into codes which are more manageable from a documentation perspective.

This is useful not only for general healthcare admin, but also for the purposes of detailing healthcare provision for insurers, so that patients can get the coverage and financial support they need when they fall ill.

Without medical coding, it would be far harder to guarantee accuracy in billing, which would be bad for healthcare providers, patients and insurers all at the same time.

CPCs are essentially translators who can turn the extensive reports from healthcare practitioners into concise, precise codes that are straightforward to store and interpret outside of their original context.

The qualification options

The road to becoming a fully accredited CPC begins with attaining apprentice status, otherwise known as CPC-A.

This is in recognition of passing the exam set by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the body which gives its backing to CPCs across the country.

The difference between a CPC-A and a CPC is that in order to be eligible for the latter status, you need to have accrued at least two years of experience working in this profession.

Of course you could aim to get this experience before you take the exam, which would allow you to become a CPC straight away, assuming you pass and you meet the other eligibility requirements.

Essentially, while you cannot expect to go from a total newcomer to a qualified CPC in a short timeframe, it will be quicker to achieve certification in this aspect of healthcare than in lots of other areas. And you do not need a college-level degree to do this either, making it one of the more accessible professions in this sphere.

The advantages of the role

There are a number of benefits which come with being a CPC, first among which is the flexibility to work in a wide variety of locations.

CPCs are required in all sorts of healthcare facilities, from vast urban hospitals to rural treatment centers. So no matter where in the country you would like to be based, a career as a certified medical coder will enable this.

Another perk is that attaining CPC status will allow you to earn more on average than a non-accredited coder. This is the most significant long term reason to go through the eligibility and examination process, as it will bump up your pay packet quite a bit.

The other considerations

An additional aspect of being a CPC is that the professionals in this role tend to also fulfill other duties associated with it, making themselves even more valuable to prospective employers.

For example, coders will regularly handle medical billing tasks as well, which is of course closely connected to the functions of a CPC.

Valuable skills for a CPC to foster include collaboration, time management, problem solving and communication. If these are already in your wheelhouse, you are one step ahead.

If it sounds like becoming a CPC is something you’d like to achieve, the sooner you start the certification process, the sooner you can begin your new career!

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