Sunday, December 10, 2023

All You Need to Know About CPC, COC, and CIC Exams

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CPC, COC, and CIC exams

Today, we will have an article about the differences between the CPC, the COC, and the CIC exams. We are going to talk about a frequent question which has among students. So we put together a little comparison here to go through the differences with you.


The predominant difference between the CPC, the COC, and the CIC is what environment are you working in. If you are doing the CPC exam, that’s a certified professional coder. When we talk about professionals, we’re talking about you are typically doing coding for a physician or another qualified health care provider like a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. But you’re doing the billing for the physician.

For both the COC and the CIC, you typically work for the facility, the hospital, that type of thing. And the difference between those two is what part of the hospital are you coding?
Are you coding for the outpatient? If so, you’re looking at the COC- the hospital outpatient side. Or, if you’re coding for the in-patient facility, you’re looking at the CIC.

We talk about in-patient; we’re talking about those patients admitted for an overnight stay or often more prolonged than that. Outpatient- think emergency room. Think same-day surgeries. Even some of your PTOT speech laboratory pathology services those types of things where you might go to the hospital for a procedure, but you’re not kept overnight. You’re going to go home the same day. So that’s the most significant difference between these three. And also, we talk about the difference in the exam content.

CPC Examination

So, for example, the CPC is entirely multiple choice for the CPC. It includes a total of 150 questions. The questions are divided up amongst the categories like CPT, Anesthesia, Laboratory, Radiology, Medicine, Anatomy and so on. So there are about 60 questions across the surgery section of CPT or the current procedural terminology. There are ten questions on evaluation and management, eight on the anesthesia, ten on radiology, ten on path and lab, ten on the medicine section. There is 16 total across medical terminology and anatomy. Ten questions that are exclusively on ICD 10 CM. There are at least five questions all about HCPCS codes and modifiers.

And then, there are some questions on the coding guidelines and some of the compliance and regulatory things. The basic Medicare questions that sort of thing.Those are all areas on the professional side because you usually have to know to code for a physician.
The COC tests on all of those same areas. They decrease or increase the number of questions and some of those categories of the CPC exam.

They’ve cut back the number of questions. So surgery cases instead of 60, you’re only going to see 40. These other areas of CBT, instead of about I think 58, you’re only going to see 20, but they’re going to increase the number of questions in medical terminology, anatomy, ICD-10-CM and HCPCS. So there’s a couple of more questions on the midterm. Few more on anatomy, a whole bunch more on diagnosis coding. Your ICD-10-CM, and about double the number of queries on HCPCS instead of five, you’re going to have 10.
They ask one less question on coding guidelines the same kind of information on compliance and regulatory.

But they ask to brand new questions that they wouldn’t ask on the professional side. These are all about payment methodology because if you’re coding for the facility, you need to know what facility you’re working in and the method they get paid. Different perspective payment systems depend on the type of facility you’re coding. So you get asked about 20 questions all around payment methodology. The comprehensive exam for the COC is still 150 multiple-choice questions. So it’s incredibly similar to the CPC.

And, if you look at most courses, the first part of the course is the same information that you have as the CPC. The difference is now we’re going to give you more education on payment methodology to make sure that you understand that the payment is different. And they’re also going to test you on a few other surgeries than you would see from a professional provider.

So your CPC is correct; those doctors could be anybody, and they could be performing just about any surgery. Well, the hospital outpatient only allows certain services to provide outpatient. Like you’re not going to do a bilateral lung transplant in the outpatient side of things. We’re not going to replace their lungs and send them home that day. That’s not how it works.

So that’s not a case you would ever see on this exam. It will be specifically geared towards surgeries typically provided in an outpatient unit or procedures usually offered in an outpatient department. So it’s different from the professional. Those credentials are very, very similar. However, you’ll notice all of the categories are the same. It’s just the number of questions that they’re asking.

CIC Examination

The third credential that we will talk about briefly is the CIC, the in-patient hospital. Now, this credential is entirely different from the other two. It is not like completely different. Some of the areas are a little bit similar, but it’s different in structure, and it’s different in content. Instead of 150 multiple choice questions, there are 60 multiple choice questions in all of these categories.

Those are a total of 60 questions but have coding cases. These are not multiple choice. These are fill in the blank, and the average, according to the AAPC, is about 110 codes across those 10 cases. So one point may have 12 codes. One may only require ten principles. Just depends on which code case you’re looking at because you’re coding both diagnosis and procedure codes.

The other big difference you’re not using any CPT codes. There are no CPT codes on the in-patient facility side. Instead, you’re using ICD 10 PCS. So it’s a different concept. They do still ask you about medical terminology and anatomy. They talk about ICD 10 CM diagnosis coding. They ask you questions about compliance, payer regulations, and payment methodologies, just like they did on the outpatient side. On the in-patient side, they ask you about payment methodology. Some people ask, “why did they ask about outpatient payment methodology?”

Well, you need to know both of them if you’re working for a facility because if you’re working on the outpatient side, what happens if you have a patient that becomes an in-patient? Same thing if you’re working on an in-patient side; what if that patient started on the outpatient side? Does it affect how you get paid? So they ask you some of those basic questions. So there are two new categories for the CIC compared to the other sections. Not that you don’t have coding cases on both the CPC and the COC. Prefer the CIC; these are fill in the blank.

The other two exams are multiple-choice. So that’s a huge difference. The other different area for the CIC is that instead of focusing on coding guidelines, they’re asking you about medical record documentation guidelines. Do you know how long a provider has to make a chart correction? How do they make that correction? Are there specific protocols they have to follow, and what does that look like? And all of that. So those two areas are significantly different from the COC in the CPC.

So when we look at these three credentials, the biggest thing that you need to know is you’re looking at trying to determine which one is for you. The CPC is geared towards coding for the physicians and the other qualified providers. Means you’re on the professional side.

The COC and CIC are for the facility- you’re working for the hospital. And the difference there is COC you’re working in a hospital outpatient department. Think Emergency Room, same-day surgeries, outpatient therapies, that sort of thing. The CIC you’re coding for the hospital for those patients who were there for an in-patient admission. They were usually there several days- significant surgeries. They may have had an infection. Those types of things, so the services are a little bit different. That’s a baseline of the difference between these three.

If you want more information on these credentials, go to the AAPC website. You’ll find that they give a listing just like we do here of the breakouts of how many questions are in each section, and if you click on those breakouts, it will provide you with more details. So, for example, when we say “HCPCS Level 2,” here are the types of questions we might ask you. We might ask you about modifiers. We might ask you about medications. Might ask you about Medicare specific procedure codes.

But I hope this article gives you a high-level overview of the difference between the CPC, the COC, and the CIC as you try to determine which credentials are proper for you.

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