What you should know about Accreditation
Accreditation is a peer review process of assessment of degree-granting programs and institutions for academic quality in higher education. For example, the institution that sponsors an accredited CAHIIM program is required to have institutional accreditation by a regional or national institutional accreditor which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and must have provisions for Title IV Eligibility. This allows that institution to provide:
Professional programmatic accreditation means that in addition to the college or university's regional or national accreditation, programs in health information and health informatics may choose to seek CAHIIM accreditation, which is a voluntary peer review process to evaluate the program of study against CAHIIM Standards.
Program accreditation by CAHIIM is necessary in order to be eligible for the AHIMA professional HIM Certification Exams. A graduate is required to have completed an accredited CAHIIM program in order to be eligible to take the exam and become certified. CAHIIM accredited programs are quality programs that provide professionally required knowledge and skills, and employment marketability. Graduating from a CAHIIM accredited program offers employers assurance that you have the expected professional knowledge and skills, and have experienced a curriculum that is relevant to today's electronic health record (EHR) environment. .
What you should know about Coding Programs
Any coding certificate program that bears the AHIMA approval seal is a good choice. Certificate programs that are not AHIMA approved may also offer good training, but it is impossible to tell until the program has submitted detailed results regarding program outcomes, qualifications of the faculty, and curriculum details to AHIMA for review and consideration.
Some certificate programs offer to train the student in a short period of time, and charge high fees for their instruction. It takes time to properly train an individual to become a professional coder. To help you evaluate whether a coding certificate program is a good value consider the following:
Do they bear the AHIMA approval seal? If so, an independent peer review analysis has found them to be compliant in all standards, and that the curriculum meets the national model curriculum.
If they are not AHIMA approved, compare the course offerings of the program against the national model curriculum (link here) what components are missing?
Who teaches the classes? AHIMA requires all coding to be taught by currently credentialed AHIMA members holding either: RHIA, RHIT, CCS, or CCS-P credentials. Typically, faculty from approved programs carries more than one credential.
What are the withdrawal and refund policies – can you get it in writing, and do they seem fair?
What type of “hands-on” skills training is in the program – how many hours are dedicated to using online encoders? How many hours are dedicated to “authentic coding” where the student learns to code from actual medical records rather than out of coding workbooks?
There are many professional coders who are RHIT and RHIA credentialed. After the initial coding job is secured, a coder will find the path to career advancement may require an advanced college degree with credentials beyond CCS or CCS-P depending on the employer and the job opportunity.