Program Requirements

The Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) examination is designed to test an applicant's ability to recall documentation and coding guidelines and industry regulations pertaining to clinical documentation improvement and apply that knowledge to real-life scenarios clinical documentation specialists face every day. Achieving this credential recognizes that a clinical documentation specialist possesses prerequisite educational requirements as well as proven, hands-on experience performing the function of a clinical documentation specialist.

Individuals interested in the CCDS should download and read the Exam Candidate's Handbook.

CCDS prerequisites

Candidates who apply for the examination must list their documentation specialist experience. Applications may be audited to verify work history and educational background. Candidates must have at least two years of experience as a documentation specialist. Once a candidate has accumulated the time, it does not expire. Candidates must meet the work experience requirements prior to submitting their application. Candidates applying for the examination will be required to list their documentation specialist experience. Applications may be audited to verify work history.

The candidate for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam will meet one of the following three education and experience standards and currently be employed as either a concurrent or retrospective Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist:

  • An RN, RHIA, RHIT, MD or DO and two (2) years of experience as a concurrent or retrospective documentation specialist in an inpatient acute care facility using the United States IPPS system.
  • An Associate’s degree (or equivalent) in an allied health field (other than what is listed above) and three (3) years of experience as a concurrent or retrospective documentation specialist in an inpatient acute care facility using the United States IPPS system. The education component must include completed college-level course work in medical terminology and human anatomy and physiology.
  • Formal education (accredited college-level course work) in human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and disease process, or the AHIMA CCS or CCS-P credential, and a minimum of three (3) years of experience in the role as a concurrent or retrospective documentation specialist in an inpatient acute care facility using the United States IPPS system.

A year of experience is defined as full-time employment or greater than 2,000 hours worked during that year.

What is a documentation specialist?

  • The concurrent documentation specialist conducts daily reviews of medical records for patients who are currently hospitalized.
  • The retrospective documentation specialist reviews medical records daily of post discharge, pre-bill records.

Concurrent and retrospective documentation specialists also:

  • Work collaboratively using real-time conversation with physicians and medical team members caring for the patient
  • Use their clinical knowledge to evaluate how the medical record will translate into coded data, including reviewing provider and other clinical documentation, lab results, diagnostic information and treatment plans
  • Communicate with providers, whether in verbal discussion or by query, for missing, unclear or conflicting documentation
  • Educate providers about optimal documentation, identification of disease processes to ensure proper reflection of severity of illness, complexity, and acuity and facilitate accurate coding
  • Understand complications, comorbidities, severity of illness, risk of mortality, case mix, and the impact of procedures on the billed record, and share this knowledge with providers and members of the healthcare team

Please mail questions to  Penny Richards.

Recertification

The goal of recertification is to assure continuing competence of each CCDS and maintain the standard of professionalism in clinical documentation improvement. Those who hold the CCDS must apply for recertification every two years by the anniversary of the date on which they passed the exam. The recertification fee is $100 for ACDIS members and $200 for non-members. Evidence of 30 CDI-related CEUs are also required.

CCDS holders who do not recertify in a timely manner may be required to take the CCDS examination again.