Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Certified Professional Coder CPC Certification Exam

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Everything You Need to Know About CPC Exam

Since the medical care industry continues to grow, you may be interested in finding a career in the field that suits your interests, abilities, and skill set. There is a wide range of jobs available, including medical billing and coding. These job positions are frequently fulfilled at a desk in a traditional office environment during regular business hours. 

This article describes what a certified professional coder is, recommends steps to prepare for the CPC exam, discusses the benefits of earning a CPC, and shares how you can make a CPC certification.

CPC

What is a Certified Professional Coder (CPC)?

A CPC is a person who has earned the designation by facing and passing a medical coding certification exam offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Being a CPC means that you’ve proven your knowledge and understanding of medical coding so that you can work according to the standards of your industry.

CPCs use identifying codes to submit bills to insurance agencies for services a physician has provided to a patient. Certified medical coders should also have a minimum of two years of coding experience and complete a precise number of ongoing learning courses every two years.

Start Your Career With the CPC Exam

The Certified Professional Coder exam is the definitive step to achieving CPC certification. By passing the CPC exam and obtaining the right to attach the CPC abbreviation to your name, you become a medical care business expert identified for good proficiency of professional-fee medical coding.

Who Should Take the CPC Exam?

After you have trained to become a medical coder—or if you have considerable medical coding experience—you should take the chance to obtain certification by registering for the CPC test. Passing the CPC exam raises your incomes, possibly by more than $25,000 above annual salaries for employees without AAPC’s medical coding certification. And CPC salaries, averaging $57,201 in 2019, maintain a 9% increase every year. And also, the request for certified medical coders proceeds to increase, with a 23% growth in careers estimated by 2022.

What Is the CPC Exam?

The CPC exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. The exam takes five hours and 40 minutes to complete. There are two intervals in the middle of the exam, and the exam costs $300 to take.

The CPC exam exhaustively checks a coder’s knowledge of the entire coding process, from medical terms to code sets and far off. The CPC exam covers 24 subject areas, including physiology, radiology, and medicine.

Most questions present a coding structure to test the proper application of CPT procedure codes, HCPCS Level II supply codes, and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes. However, the CPC exam is an open book examination. So during the test, you will reference approved coding books—the AMA’s CPT Professional Edition, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS code manuals. 

You must identify a number of these as parts of the CPT code manual. Others, like Anatomy and Physiology, are parts of the coder’s standard skill set.

The exam questions are not divided or recognized by the topic they are related to. That is, questions on the CPC exam will test candidates on all of the 24 fields of medical coding, but they won’t directly say, “This is a human anatomy question.” instead, they’ll ask you about human anatomy or surgery, or anesthesia.

During the exam, you’ll face several tests cases concerned with the coding practice. These test case questions will present you with a condensed medical report and ask you to select the correct set of codes from the given answers.

For example, a test case question might read:

“Brian, a 48-year-old patient, visits the physician and presents symptoms including a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and a fever. After doing a rapid strep test, the physician verifies a diagnosis of streptococcal sore throat. The physician directs Amoxicillin as an antibiotic. Which of the following are the correct codes for this diagnosis, method, and direction?”

There are also general knowledge questions, such as “Which types of joints are synovial?” that don’t have a detailed test case. Candidates will have to trust their knowledge of code sets, medical terms, best practices, and the coding process in general to pass.

Candidates who earn a score of 70% or high (105 correct questions) will pass the CPC exam. If you fail your first test, you are allowed one free retake. 

CPC Exam is Now Available Through Online

AAPC recognizes the challenges that COVID-19 presents for CPC exam candidates, which is why it also offers the opportunity to take the CPC exam online.

CPC Online exam will include two parts given in Blackboard in two separate sessions and proctored by Examity. Candidates will schedule each part of the exam separately through the Examity platform, accessible through Blackboard, after obtaining or transferring the current exam paper. Exam scheduling instructions will email candidates when the CPC online exam receipt has applied to the candidate’s AAPC member account.

The candidate will connect with the proctor through Examity, accessible through Blackboard, to complete the confirmation and take each exam session. Exam results will post within 3-5 business days after the final exam session is complete.

Recommended Steps to Prepare for the CPC Exam

STEP 1- Online Medical Terminology & Online Anatomy Course

Deep knowledge of medical terminology and anatomy is needed for medical coding and tested in-depth during the CPC exam. These courses should be reviewed by anyone who needs to learn medical coding or for experienced coders who may be fragile in these areas.

STEP 2- Pathophysiology Course

A deep understanding of the disease process helps revenue cycle management stay ahead of the medical decision-making and quality measures curve. Therefore, this course should be considered by those who need to learn medical coding and billing or experienced coders who wish to strengthen their knowledge in this area.

STEP 3- CPC Preparation Course 

This course prepares students for a medical coding career in an outpatient physician’s office. Candidates preparing to sit for the CPC exam should have solid coding experience or have completed this course.

STEP 4 – Official CPC Certification Study Guide

The CPC study guide evaluates every section of the CPC exam and gives practical examples, sample questions, and techniques helpful for the exam. 

STEP 5 – CPC Online Practice Exams

Online practice exams are best for anyone who is getting the CPC exam. Following the content and difficulty level of the actual exam, these practice exams enable candidates to become more intimate with the format and time restrictions of the real exam. Although the exact length of the 150-question exam, the three practice exams can be picked up separately or as a complete bundle.

STEP 6 – CPC Certification Exam

The CPC Exam is an accurate, 150 multiple choice exam. Each exam comes with one free retake. Therefore, your chances of passing the CPC exam are highest when you’ve chosen to do your training through AAPC.

Benefits of earning a CPC

Here are just many of the benefits you can expect when you become a CPC.

  • Yearly earnings

As a medical coder, you may find that you earn a beneficial salary without a degree. The national average wage for coding specialists in the United States is $48,000 per year. However, your years of experience and location can influence your wages. For example, medical coding specialists in Tampa, Florida, average $58,300 per year, while those in Brentwood, Tennessee, earn $46,920 per year.

  • Job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for medical billers and coders is favorable. The agency projects an 8% change in employment through 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. An optimistic job outlook typically correlates with job security.

  • AAPC opportunities

As a certified professional coder, you have the opportunity to visit events, training, and seminars hosted by the AAPC. Many of these events are free or come at a low cost, providing you with more awareness about the medical coding field and the chance to get to know other professionals from who you can learn.

  • Recognition

The CPC designation comes with more recognition in the medical field. It exposes patients and other medical care professionals that your understanding of medical coding is at an expert status and that you’re committed to your career. Employers value this certification because it considers a good skill set, and they usually reward their new hires with a higher salary and more earnings prospective. With the CPC certification posted on your cv, you may request more from a hiring manager too.

How to earn a CPC certification

Follow steps will help candidates to earn the CPC certification.

  1. Decide your optimal career path

You may be interested in a career in the medical field because of the job security of many positions. However, it’s essential to take the time to decide your conclusive career goals to make sure you enroll for the certifications, continuing learning courses, and higher education degrees that support your interests. Think about the essential characteristics of any job for you, whether that’s the responsibilities, annual salary, job outlook, or promotion opportunities. If medical coding is a perfect career for you, and if so, you can work to your CPC.

2. Earn your high school diploma

To sit for your CPC certification exam, you must have a high school diploma or similar, like your GED. The GED is a test that evaluates your understanding of high school subjects and is different to you have graduated from high school with your diploma. If you’re an adult who didn’t complete high school, then earning your GED is a feasible way to show the AAPC that you have the core capability to take the CPC exam.

Keep in mind that many coding experts have an associate degree from an authorized institution. Consider evaluating the career requirements from employers hiring coders to see if they mostly ask for an associate degree. If so, you may search for associate programs that support your career goals.

3. Gain professional coding experience

Without coding experience, you can still take the CPC exam and earn the CPC-A designation after passing the exam. You’ll then be able to continue working as a coder and later make the CPC appointment without the trainee classification after illustrating two years of hands-on experience. However, you may be able to gain experience before becoming certified, in which case you can take the CPC exam and detour the trainee classification.

4. Take continuing education courses.

The AAPC may exchange experience for education to drop the trainee classification from your CPC credentials. Therefore, consider enrolling for these classes that support your CPC certification so you can continue updated on medical coding.

5. Take the CPC exam

The AAPC issued the CPC exam, including radiology, surgical procedures, ICD-10, compliance, coding guidelines, and medicine. To qualify for the exam, you should be a member of the AAPC and pay your exam fee. 

You must plan to study for the AAPC CPC exam for at least two months. The more you know without having to use the books during the exam, the better. You will ensure that you complete all of the questions in the allocated time frame to perform the highest possible score.

After passing the CPC exam, you have to complete a few other steps for being officially certified by the AAPC. To achieve a CPC certification, you should become a member of the AAPC. Certification is also restricted to coders with two years of professional practice or those ready to complete a trainee program.

The CPC exam recommends for people who have already started their coding careers. However, that won’t prevent students from checking the primary points of this exam.

However, it would help if you kept in mind that none of the courses or the e-book will ultimately prepare you for the exam. Because the AAPC copyrights all of the test information and past tests, the best way to prepare for these exams is to take a course managed by AAPC. 

 

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Dennis L. Hernandez
I am a medical biller, a blogger and have 20 years of experience in medical billing, medical billing management, and medical assistant. My background includes positions as a clinical medical assistant, medical records technician, medical office manager, biller, and coder.

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