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Penny Richards

Penny Richards is the ACDIS Member Services Specialist. She is your primary contact for membership questions, including those about certification, recertification, continuing education credits, and employer verification inquiries.

A Note from the CCDS Coordinator: Electronic application process available

CCDSpinby Penny Richards

Those applying to take the CCDS exam or recertify no longer have to write their applications by hand, since ACDIS implemented new editable PDF applications, candidates can complete electronically, on their computer.

The new forms are now available on the ACDIS website for exams, re-exams, and for recertification. Visit the ACDIS site and go to the Certification section. Click on “How to Apply” or “Recertification,” locate the form you need, and click on the link. Or just click the appropriate a link below:

Save the form to your desktop using the format indicated at the top of each form, such as CCDS_EXAM_PRICHARDS (use your first initial and last name—the example uses my name).

Fill out the application with your information, save it again, and then email it to

Do not provide payment information. Instead, click the link on the second page of the application and pay through our secure online store. If you prefer, we will call you for your credit card information. You can indicate in the body of your email that you wish a call. You may also print the completed application and mail it to us with a check.

The new process is really easy and a first step to an online certification and recertification processes.

As always, contact me at if you have questions.

A Note From the CCDS Coordinator: You can do what Sarah did, it just takes hard work


Sarah LaSource

by Penny Richards

Sarah LaSource didn’t set out to do anything extraordinary on July 8. She took the CCDS certification exam—and lots of folks have done that. But she did what no one else has—walked out with the highest score we’ve ever seen anyone get on the exam, either the old or new version.

Sarah scored 116 out of 120, or 96.6% on the exam. Her secret? “I studied hard!”

She planned to take the exam in late June but some work matters arose that forced her to change her exam plans. She took the extra time to study.

She used several resources as she prepared: The CCDS Exam Study Guide, The Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist’s Complete Training Guide, and The 2016 CDI Pocket Guide (all from HCPro) and the ACDIS/AHIMA joint brief “Guidelines for Achieving a Complaint Query Practice.”

“I took the practice test (in the CCDS Exam Study Guide) several times,” she said. “The first time was to establish a baseline to find my weaknesses, then I went back over those points exclusively to hone in on my deficiencies.”

Sarah is a clinical documentation specialist at Jackson Madison County General Hospital in Jackson, Tenn., and will celebrate three years in the role in September. Her background is in SICU, case management, and utilization review.

“I got into CDI when my husband transferred to Tennessee to go to grad school,” she told me. “I applied here for an opening in case management, and when I met with the recruiter she told me about the CDI opening. I knew someone at my former employer who was in CDI and who tried to get me into it.”

She is pleased she made the move to CDI.

“This is right up my alley,” Sarah says. “I like to try new things and this is challenging. Definitely the favorite thing I’ve done so far in my nursing career.

“It was a difficult test,” she said. “The biggest challenge was the wording on some of the questions. I went back and changed some answers, something I usually don’t do. I’m glad I did!”

Congratulations Sarah. The hard work paid off in a big way.

Note from the CCDS Coordinator: Onsite exam scoring available now

I'll never wear this pin but tomorrow I'll walk through the testing process.

Onsite scoring enabled at remote testing centers.

by Penny Richards 

Live onsite scoring for the CCDS exam began again last Friday, April 15. This is welcome news for those waiting patiently for exam results and for those waiting to schedule their credentialing test until onsite scoring became available. The updated test includes questions on quality measures, ICD-10-CM/PCS concepts, and other items which reflect the changing expectations of those working in the CDI field.
The CCDS Exam Committee and AMP, the company which administers the exam, established 89 as the passing grade. This means candidates must get 89 of the 120 scored questions correct in order to pass the test, which translates to a passing percent of 74%.
The CCDS Exam Study Guide includes a practice test to help you get a feel for the actual exam. The CCDS Exam Study Guide remains the only approved exam resource. CDI Boot Camps are not designed as test preparatory classes, even though they are extremely valuable for foundational knowledge.
On a side note, there will be no on-site, paper-and-pencil CCDS examination following the Atlanta conference this year.

As always, feel free to drop me a note if you have questions.


#ACDIS2016 #MyAtlantaPlan Coming to the conference?

Be sure to plan some “me” time for a great Atlanta experience!

The ACDIS conference is a whirlwind of great learning, networking and career-enhancing experiences. But it’s nice to take a break and get out to see a new city—and Atlanta has a lot to offer.

Here are some great places to visit that are close to the conference center:

CNN studios: Tours run daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Purchase tickets in advanced at

Centennial Olympic Park:  The park was the gathering spot for visitors and residents to enjoy during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Be sure to catch the free “Fountain of Rings” show, which plays four times daily at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 9 p.m.

World of Coca-Cola at Pemberton Place: You can

  • Taste more than 100 Cola-Cola beverages from around the globe in the Taste It! beverage lounge
  • Experience the 4-D Theater (3-D movie with moving seats)
  • Walk through Bottle Works and take home a FREE 8-ounce bottle of Coca‑Cola
  • Hug the 7-foot-tall and very friendly Coca‑Cola Polar Bear
  • See the world’s largest collection of Coca‑Cola memorabilia in Milestones of Refreshment

Open daily. Purchase tickets in advance at

College Football Hall of Fame: Archie Griffin, Bo Jackson, and Roger Stauback are just a few of the 963 college champions enshrined in these hallowed halls. Learn more at

Georgia Aquarium: A Beluga whale, African penguins, giant Pacific octopus, and weedy sea dragons all make this amazing aquarium their home. Purchase tickets in advance at

Center for Human and Civil Rights: This engaging cultural attraction connects the American civil rights movement to today’s global human rights movements. Learn more at

Ride MARTA: The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority will help you get from here to there. You can even take MARTA from the airport! Click here for schedules, maps, fares and discount information:

Atlanta Braves: The Braves will play home games against the Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins while ACDIS is in town. For tickets and team details, visit

Underground Atlanta: Explore a six-block, 12-acre, three-level shopping, restaurant and entertainment district. Learn more that

Want more ideas?

A Note from the CCDS Coordinator: New CCDS exam eligibility requirements take effect June 1

I'll never wear this pin but tomorrow I'll walk through the testing process.

Eligibility changes take effect June 1, 2016.

ACDIS announces several changes in eligibility requirements for candidates wishing to sit for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam. Highlights of the changes are:

  • Retrospective documentation experience is accepted in addition to concurrent documentation experience
  • Individuals holding the CCS or CCS-P credential must demonstrate a minimum of three years of experience
  • Experience must be from work performed in an inpatient acute care facility using the United States IPPS system
  • Experience documenting in a medical record as a clinician, resident or equivalent foreign medical graduate does not meet the experience requirement.

In addition, the new eligibility requirement clarifies concurrent and retrospective documentation specialist responsibilities as they relate to exam eligibility.

These changes take effect June 1, 2016.

The complete eligibility statement follows:

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 medical terminology 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

Experience documenting in a medical record as a clinician, resident or equivalent foreign medical graduate does not meet the experience requirement.

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

Both concurrent and retrospective documentation specialists also:

  • Works collaboratively using real-time conversation with physicians and medical team members caring for the patient
  • Uses his or her 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
  • Communicates with providers, whether in verbal discussion or by query, for missing, unclear or conflicting documentation
  • Educates providers about optimal documentation, identification of disease processes to ensure proper reflection of severity of illness, complexity, and acuity and facilitate accurate coding
  • Understands complications, comorbidities, severity of illness, risk of mortality, case mix, and the impact of procedures on the billed record, and shares this knowledge with providers and members of the healthcare team

If you have questions, please email Penny Richards

Important News About the CCDS Exam

I'll never wear this pin but tomorrow I'll walk through the testing process.CCDS Exam results for the small number of people who took the exam since January 18 will be issued at the end of March. The pool of candidates who took the exam between January 18 and March 3 was smaller than anticipated, and this small sample size does not give the Exam Committee a sufficient sample on which to base a comprehensive review.

CCDS Exam results for the people taking the exam over the next few weeks will be similarly delayed.

This extended delay will allow ACDIS and AMP, the company that administers the exam, to collect more data to safeguard the integrity of the exam and ensure that experienced clinical documentation professionals with demonstrated ability hold the CCDS certification.

We thank you for your continued patience as we work diligently to ensure the CCDS credential remains the preeminent demonstration of clinical documentation improvement specialists’ excellence.

If you have questions, please email Penny Richards at

Conference Update: Call for poster presentations

You never know where the ACDIS poster session road will take you.

Poster presenters save $200 on their ACDIS conference registration.

Have you thought about presenting a poster at the 2016 ACDIS conference in Atlanta? We invite you to apply to present a poster!

Our poster session is a popular event, always well-received by conference attendees, and is a great opportunity for you to showcase your organization’s CDI program and its success with a national audience. In addition, poster presenters save $200 on their ACDIS conference registration.

To give you an idea of what you might present, here is a partial list of topics from last year (you can also view posters from previous years in our Forms & Tools Library):

  • CDI process improvement initiatives
  • CDI lessons learned
  • Audits and interventions to improve pediatric documentation
  • Documentation opportunities
  • Audit risks in cerebral edema and metabolic encephalopathy
  • CDI and Coding working as a team
  • Calculate and graph financial impact of CDI activities
  • Continued physician engagement for your CDI program
  • Query as part of the medical record
  • Oncology scenarios using ICD-10 coding
  • Malnutrition non-blinded study of two (2) inpatient units
  • ICD-10 education for office based providers
  • Integration, collaboration and communication
  • Documenting pneumonia and respiratory disease
  • Effective use of CDI in denial process

Maximum size allowed is 48 inches wide by 36 inches tall (anything larger will be turned away). Posters will be on display throughout the conference. Presenters are required to be on site for a dedicated time block (an hour or two) to speak with conference attendees about their poster. Presenters may bring handouts (but these are not required). We’ll take a photo of each poster and post it along with a one-page description (due from each presenter) on the ACDIS web site following the conference.

If interested, you must complete and return an application by January 15, 2016. Click this link to download the application off the ACDIS web site. The conference committee will review all of the applications and select those ideas for conference presentation.

We will approve one poster per facility (unless space allows, in which case posters will be approved based on application submission date). Presenters receive a $200 discount on their conference registration fee. The discount applies to one person regardless of the number of a people involved in the presentation.

Click here for more information.

ACDIS announces CCDS Exam changes

I'll never wear this pin but tomorrow I'll walk through the testing process.

ACDIS is making several changes to the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist exam effective January 18, 2016.

ACDIS is making several changes to the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist exam effective January 18, 2016. Candidates will have three hours to complete the exam, which will contain 140 questions.

What’s new on the exam?

  • ICD-10
    • ICD-10 related questions will replace ICD-9 related questions on the current exam. Please remember this is not a coding exam and code assignment is not required.
  • New quality section
    • An eighth section is being added to the exam. Impact of Reportable Diagnoses on Quality of Care will include 10 questions on topics such as:
      • Severity of illness/risk of mortality
      • Quality data
      • Quality metrics
      • Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program
      • Hospital Value Based Purchasing
      • Patient Safety Indicator 90

Click this link to see a complete list of the eight exam sections and their content.

  • Delayed score results
    • Candidates taking the exam will not get their scores on site after completing the exam. The ACDIS CCDS Advisory Board and a team from Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP, the company that administers the exam) will meet to review the first few weeks of exam results and determine the passing score. We anticipate that instant on-site score results will resume by early March 2016.

Please email Penny Richards with your questions.

A quick Q&A about CCDS recertification

Changes took place.

Everything you need to know about how to recertify.

Q: How far in advance can I renew my CCDS certification?

A: Please submit no more than 60 days prior to expire date. Your expiration date is every two years from the date you took the exam. That date is on your certificate and on the score sheet you received when you took the exam.

Q: What do you recommend as the best way to submit my recertification?

A: Complete and submit the application that is available on the ACIDS web site.

Q: I don’t see a way to do it online but do see a fax number.

A: There is no online application option offered.

Q: Do you recommend faxing the form, e-mailing it to you, or putting it in the mail?

A: Return it in whatever way you wish. Instructions are on the form.

Q: Is it ok to submit more than the required 30 or should I just stop once I reach 30 hours.

A: You only need to submit 30 hours. All CEUs must have been earned in the time you held the certification. Remaining CEUs cannot be used for a future recert. Note the restrictions outline on the form (not more than 10 CEUs for any single event other than certain HCPro-sponsored programs).

Need more information? Visit the recertification page on the ACDIS web site or email CCDS Exam Coordinator Penny Richards.

CCDS Update: When do I need to recertify?

I'll never wear this pin but tomorrow I'll walk through the testing process.

You worked too hard to earn the CCDS. Don’t give it give it away on an oversight.

I just got an email from someone asking when his CCDS recertification is due. Unfortunately it expired 19 months ago, and when I told him, he was quite surprised.

“How can that be? I paid my ACDIS dues.”

ACDIS membership is not tied to CCDS certification. You don’t have to be an ACDIS member to hold the CCDS—and you don’t have to hold the CCDS to be an ACDIS member.

We encourage ACDIS membership for CCDS holders, if for no other reason than, with membership, they can earn 10 FREE continuing education credits each year toward the 30 they need to recertify every two years. That’s just one great benefit of membership.

Do you hold the CCDS certification? Do you know when it expires? Look on your CCDS certificate (it’s framed and hanging on the wall, right?) or look at the score sheet you received the day you passed the exam. Your CCDS recert is due two years from the date you took the exam.

Recertifying is easy—most people list many more CEUS than the 30 that are required. Here is a link to a list of items you can submit for CCDS recertification.

There is a 45-day grace period to recertify without penalty and we will work with anyone with a recertification that is up to 12 months overdue. After a year, your CCDS is revoked and you must take the exam again in order to hold the CCDS.

Click here to email me if you need to know your CCDS recertification due date. Include your name, facility, home address and phone number. We’ll update the database as necessary. It is your responsibility to notify ACDIS of contact changes.

ACDIS is not responsible for expired certifications if we can’t reach you with email reminders. It is important to note that the HCPro Customer Service database is separate from the CCDS database, which is why we remind you to contact the ACDIS CCDS office with changes. We’ll share the changes with Customer Service.

You worked too hard to earn the CCDS. Don’t give it give it away on an oversight.