Medical Coding Certificate Program Facts

The Medical Coder is a professional with a unique blend of clinical knowledge and information management skills, who:

  • Reviews medical records and assigns codes based on diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement and research purposes
  • Understands and applies coding guidelines and reimbursement methodologies.
  • Applies laws and regulations relative to maintenance, disclosure, confidentiality and retention of health information
  • Uses computer applications to manage health information.

Making a decision about a career is a difficult one. If you are interested in health and information technologies, laws and ethics, and the improvement of health care, and you are an organized, detail oriented individual, this diverse career field may be just right for you!  A strong background in the health sciences including: Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, Pathophysiology, and Health Information Technology courses, and computer courses are vital to the work the Medical Coder does.

Medical Codersare primarily employed in hospitals, outpatient facilities, physician offices or group practices, clinics, insurance companies, and medical billing companies. The position title and work setting dictates the actual tasks and responsibilities.  Employers may have specific qualifications, i.e. education and certification, that they are looking for when hiring a medical coder and they can differ among facilities.  All employers will conduct a coding test as part of the hiring process.

Working conditions are usually flexible, primarily day shift, and no weekends or holidays. The actual coding environment includes sitting for long period of time, reviewing medical records (paper or electronic), using a computer all day and working independently. Productivity and quality standards are required; therefore, this position may be stressful.

Health Information Technician/Medical Coders are one of the fastest growing occupations in the country today.  According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, “employment of medical records and health information technicians is expected to grow much faster than average for all occupations through 2014 because of rapid growth in the number of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that will be increasingly scrutinized by health insurance companies, regulators, courts, and consumers.”

After meeting the pre-requisites, the student must complete a Health Technologies Rolling Admission Application Form to apply to the program. The MCC program is a 1-year certificate program with the HIM courses held during the afternoon and evening hours. Once accepted students must sign up for the afternoon or evening sections of the HIM courses. A new group (32) of students starts the program every fall semester. Some students choose to reduce their workload by taking general study courses or health sciences prior to formal program entry. These options are important considerations for those whose work or whose family responsibilities might otherwise prevent them from pursuing an education.  General study courses and health science courses are available during the day and night. Currently, the program starts with a new group of students in the fall and continues thru to the following August.  Please note that the summer schedule is extremely concentrated and accelerated with classes starting in June. You must be prepared to take these accelerated and concentrated courses. Students may also receive credit for classes based on work experience and may test out of a class (up to 12 credit hours) by taking a proficiency test.

Most of the health programs at Stark State College have waiting lists; therefore, you should check for what year the program is currently accepting applications. It is important to note that the waiting list changes continuously. Students change their mind, have difficulty meeting academic standards, or drop off the list. As we delete names, we automatically move students who are waiting up. While you are waiting to start the core program courses you may take any or all of the general study or health science courses which would lessen your course load.

During the summer session, students obtain hands-on coding experience in the HIM virtual lab (J204) at the college.  Students are given a variety of settings to code from such as inpatient, ancillary, same-day surgery, and emergency department. The students attend the professional practice experience five days a week, for the last two weeks of the summer semester.

No. The clinical component is held at Stark State College in the HIM virtual lab (J204) for the entire 2 weeks.

Following completion, the MCC student is prepared to take a national certification examination which is at the discretion of the student.  The American Health Information Management Association and/or American Academy of Professional Coders offer certification examinations.  The examinations are comprehensive, covering all aspects of health information, coding, reimbursement, science and other subjects addressed in the curriculum.  There are numerous certification examinations (CCA, CCS, CPC, CCS-P, etc.) available based on individual and/or employer requirements.   The program strongly recommends that the student take the CCA exam as this exam is intended for entry-level candidates with minimal coding experience or graduates of coding certificate or training programs.  The CCA should be viewed as the starting point for an individual entering a new career as a coder. The more advanced CCS and/or CCS-P exams demonstrate mastery level coding skills, obtained by work experience that the CCA would strive for to advance their coding career.

Yes, lifelong learning and keeping skills up-to-date are important in this field.  Each certification may require different continuing education requirements; for example for the CCA to maintain their certification, they are required to complete 20 CEU’s in a 2 year period of time and to do a yearly self-assessment.

The Medical Coding Certificate program is approved by the Ohio Board of Regents.  It was developed in 2002, utilizing the same courses that are in the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) accredited Health Information Technology Program. The AHIMA developed a separate coding program “approval” process in 2005, which was revised in March 2006. The program is currently reviewing the requirements to be “approved” by AHIMA and will be pursuing this approval.

Yes, however, it is on a space available basis.  Students must complete a Health Technologies Rolling Admission Application form and submit a written letter requesting admission to the HIM program before the end of the spring semester of the coding certificate program. Admission to the HIM program depends on space availability since the student will be joining an existing HIM class.  The number of spaces available will be determined at the end of the spring semester. Admission will be based on seat availability and first come first served.   Please note that courses needed to complete the associate degree are offered only during the day and the student must follow the curriculum as designed to complete the associate degree in one year.

You must make an appointment to meet with someone from the program to discuss the curriculum, program requirements and the schedule of courses. Contact: Terrie M. Bradshaw, RHIT, Coordinator, Medical Coding Program at tbradshaw@starkstate.edu. or you can call 330-966-5458 ext. 4595.

Also visit the following websites for additional information about this exciting career:

  • American Health Information Management Association – www.ahima.org
  • Ohio Health Information Management Association – www.ohima.org
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook – Look under Professional and Related Occupations and look for Medical Records/Health Information – www.bls.gov/oco