The healthcare industry is rapidly evolving in every aspect—practicing physicians are constantly finding themselves scrambling to manage the onslaught of code changes, maintain compliance and stabilize profitability. Medical coding and billing are becoming the fastest growing professions in the industry, and, with this development, physicians are more interested in hiring individuals who are certified and have the qualifications to comprehend clinical documentation.
In addition to the increasing use of electronic health records and the new code set ICD-10 for diagnoses, more coders will be needed to complete the new responsibilities associated with electronic data management and code mapping.
To support this need, the American College of Rheumatology in collaboration with the American Academy of Professional Coders created the certified rheumatology coding certification to enable coders to demonstrate superior knowledge in coding for rheumatology services.
“This specialty certification carries a lot of weight for employers seeking to hire coders in their practice,” says Antanya Chung, CPC, CPC-I, CRHC, CCP, director of practice management at the ACR. “It’s not just letters behind one’s name; it says the individual understands the coding concepts and principles of coding, especially in rheumatology.”
Advantages of Certification
Obtaining the CRHC certification has inherent advantages, because it distinguishes an individual as competent, knowledgeable and committed to quality healthcare through quality information. It will also give one a competitive edge in career advancement and in being considered for higher administrative positions in the medical industry.
Earning the rheumatology coding certification represents a high level of achievement and demonstrates coding proficiency. The CRHC certification requires personal commitment and accountability, because it includes an eight-hour review course and the passing of a rigorous exam. But the rewards for earning the certification include improved earning potential and career advancement.
“I probably would not have advanced in my career as a practice manager if it were not for my CRHC certification,” says Cheryl Johnson, CPC, CRHC, CPAR, CMA, of Piedmont Arthritis & Rheumatology. “Actually I started out as a coding administrator, and for this advancement I competed with a candidate who held similar qualifications but lacked rheumatology coding experience.”
The ACR places a concentrated focus on the importance of continuing education and certification in coding as a critical element in effective healthcare management in rheumatology practices. Coders are instrumental in keeping physician practices compliant by coding documentation accurately, properly reviewing medical records and staying up to date with code changes. A certified rheumatology coder knows the correct application for CPT and ICD-9 diagnosis for rheumatologic services—this means they are more able to translate diagnostic and procedural phrases into numerical codes used for billing and reimbursement purposes by insurance companies, safeguarding a practice against unnecessary audits.