AHIMA vs. AAPC: Medical Billing and Coding Organizations Compared

AHIMA and AAPC dominate the coding landscape, but how do they differ? Dive into their certifications, focus areas and how they differ.

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AHIMA vs. AAPC: Medical Billing and Coding Organizations Compared

What is the difference between AAPC and AHIMA?

Are you considering a career in health information management? If so, you may have heard of the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Both of these organizations offer memberships and certification opportunities for those looking to make a career in the health care industry. 

In this blog post, we will be exploring the differences between AAPC and AHIMA, their respective histories, their membership requirements, and the various coding certifications available. We will also compare the two organizations in terms of cost, certifications, and ongoing education. 

Both AAPC and AHIMA are highly respected organizations and offer certifications that can help someone advance as a medical biller or coder. Which you choose, ultimately, will come down to your career goals. For example, if you want a coding job in a particular medical specialty, you'll want to pursue a specialty certification from AAPC, which AHIMA does not offer. Learn more below about what each organization offers. 

Overview of AAPC

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) is a national professional association of medical coding and billing professionals. It was established in 1988 and is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The organization has over 200,000 members and serves as the largest coding credentialing organization in the United States. The organization is very supportive, providing members with resources and tools to excel in their chosen profession.

Membership to AAPC

AAPC offers three different membership types, which include professional, student, and family membership. Each membership type provides access to a range of benefits and services, such as discounts on AAPC products, access to webinars and conferences, and access to online tools and resources.

Coding Certifications offered by AAPC

AAPC offers a range of coding certifications, including:

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
  • Certified Professional Coder Hospital (CPC-H)
  • Certified Professional Coder – Outpatient (CPC-P)
  • Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA)

Each certification requires a minimum of two years of medical coding experience and successful completion of a certification exam.

Overview of AHIMA

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is a professional association that provides education and certification services for healthcare information professionals. It was established in 1928 and is based in Chicago, Illinois. The organization has over 103,000 members and is a leader in health information management education and certification.

Membership to AHIMA

AHIMA offers two different membership types: professional and student. Each type provides access to several resources and benefits, such as access to webinars, online tools and resources, and discounts on AHIMA products.

Coding Certifications offered by AHIMA

AHIMA offers four coding certifications, including:

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
  • Certified Coding Specialist-Physician (CCS-P)
  • Certified Coding Specialist-Hospital (CCS-H)
  • Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS)

Each certification requires the successful completion of an exam and a minimum of two years of coding experience.

Differences between AAPC and AHIMA

There are several differences between AAPC and AHIMA, including educational requirements, job opportunities, and coding standards. Take time to consider the differences and how they align with your experience and career goals.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for AAPC and AHIMA certifications differ. Along with an Associate's degree, AAPC requires a minimum of two years of medical coding experience and successful completion of a certification exam. AHIMA requires a minimum of an Associate's degree in Health Information Technology or a related field, as well as successful completion of a certification exam. You may also need to provide proof of experience by submitting letters of recommendation verifying two years of on-the-job experience using the specified code sets.

Job Opportunities

Whether you are certified through AAPC or AHIMA, you'll find a lot of job opportunities. However, the focus of each organization varies which may impact where you find work. Specifically, AAPC focuses on different medical coding specialties, while AHIMA focuses more on health information management. Most AAPC-certified medical coders go on to find jobs in physician offices and clinics. On the other hand, AHIMA-certified medical coders may be better suited to larger organizations like hospitals.  

Coding Standards

Both AHIMA and AAPC follow official ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Other Considerations and Comparisons

When it comes to additional considerations, anyone interested in a career in medical billing and health management should also be reminded that both organizations are dedicated to upholding the highest level of ethical conduct. Finally, you should take a moment to consider the cost comparisons between AAPC and AHIMA and the continuing education opportunities available from each.  

Cost

The cost of memberships, exams, and certifications vary between AAPC and AHIMA. AAPC offers lower prices for exams and certifications and a free one-year membership with the purchase of a CPC certification exam. Annual membership for AAPC ranges from $140 for students to $205 for individuals.

AHIMA offers higher prices for examinations and certifications, however, AHIMA memberships come with a variety of benefits. Annual dues for AHIMA range between $49-$199, and can include discounts for things like travel and insurance.

Continuing Education

Medical coding and health systems management programs are evolving and you may find opportunities for career growth through additional training and learning. AAPC offers continuing education through webinars and conferences, while AHIMA offers continuing education through online and in-person education and training.

Ethics of Medical Coding  

Both AAPC and AHIMA have strict ethical standards and a code of conduct that must be followed. This is because coding is the last link in the chain of patient/doctor interactions and the confidential codes submitted must correlate with the provider's documentation and the patient's condition. Regardless of which certification you ultimately pursue, you will be expected to uphold a high level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical conduct.

In conclusion, AAPC and AHIMA  both provide memberships and certifications for those seeking to advance their careers in the healthcare industry. Both organizations offer a range of benefits and services, however, there are several notable differences between the two. The biggest difference is that AAPC coding is generally associated with outpatient services, while AHIMA coding is generally associated with inpatient facilities.  Most people will choose one organization over the other based on their career goals, although some find it beneficial to be certified through both. Before deciding what is right for you, consider what kind of health organization you're most interested in and research their preferred certification requirements. We hope this blog post helped you better understand the differences between AAPC and AHIMA and provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

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