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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 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.

Use a DRG Expert? Me? Um, no thanks.

If you don't already, start learning how to use the DRG Expert today!

If you don’t already, start learning how to use the DRG Expert today!

“Why do I need to know how to use a DRG Expert to take the CCDS exam? I don’t have to use that book to do my job.”

I hear this a lot. The reason you don’t use a DRG Expert is probably because you use an encoder. Since you can’t take an encoder into the exam room, you’re going to have to rely on the book.

Even if you don’t plan to (or need) to take the CCDS exam, you should still learn how to use the book. It can be a valuable tool for CDI specialists, and is often overlooked in the CDI community. You may find yourself without access to the electronic supports that calculate DRGs for you. Your system crashes. You seek new employment or pickup additional hours in a facility that requires manual research. You have to demonstrate your expertise or defend an assigned DRG. The list of reasons goes on and on.

The June 25 issue of CDI Strategies has an excellent article authored by ACDIS CDI Education Director Cheryl Ericson [more]

CCDS Update: Am I eligible for certification?

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

Are you eligible for certification? Find out.

The Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam hit a pretty big milestone over the weekend: on Saturday, the 2,500th person to pass the exam took the test and received their certification. While we are thrilled with the success and growth of the CCDS credential, we know there are still hundreds of hopeful CDI specialists out there wondering, “How do I become certified?” We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about eligibility for the CCDS certification and recertification and thought we’d offer some advice.

Certification eligibility requirements

Candidates who apply for the examination must cite their concurrent documentation specialist experience on their application. 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. All work experience must be met at the time the application is submitted.

Candidates must demonstrate that they meet one of the following requirements:

  • An RHIA®, RHIT®, CCS®, CCS-P®, RN, MD or DO and two (2) years’ experience as a concurrent documentation specialist.
  • An associate’s degree (or equivalent education) in an allied health field and three (3) years of experience as a concurrent documentation specialist. The education component must include completed coursework in medical terminology and anatomy and physiology.
  • Formal education (accredited, college-level course work) in human anatomy and/or physiology, plus medical terminology, and disease processes, and a minimum three (3) years’ experience as a concurrent documentation specialist

Please note: [more]

Conference Special Update: Eight Things to do in San Antonio

The River Walk in San Antonio, TX.

The River Walk in San Antonio, TX.

The very first thing you need to do in advance of your San Antonio trip is to download the Visit San Antonio Visitor’s Guide.. It’s loaded with colorful descriptions and photos of the myriad things to do in this exciting city.

1. The River Walk

Let’s start with the River Walk (be sure to click on the “coupons” link for local business discounts)

This public park is steps from the conference center and hotels. It’s a pedestrian street, one level down from the automobile street, free, and open 365 days a year. It is lined with restaurants, hotels, as well as walking and jogging trails. There’s bike rentals and river cruises. The River Walk is alive with music, dozens of restaurants, and fun into the early morning hours. Mi Terra serves traditional Tex-Mex and Mexican pastries 24 hours a day.

To download a copy of the River Walk map, click here.

 2. Do a pub crawl

While we don’t endorse over-consumption of adult beverages, there are some great pubs along the River Walk, including Howl at the Moon, Dick’s Last Resort, Bier Garten Riverwalk, Mad Dog, Rio Rio, and Pat O’Brien’s. You’ll also find Pearl Brewery and the Lone Star Brewery, both on the River Walk.

For a list of bars on the River Walk, check out this site.

3. Roll on the river

Who doesn’t love the sound of a cruise along the river? It’s an iconic experience that will truly make your San Antonio experience. For more information on the Riverboats, River Taxis, and everything else water related, please visit

4. Get your history fix

Visit The Alamo and the Missions National Historical Park, just south of downtown. You can access from the River Walk. The Alamo is free, or you may wish to walk with an Alamo History Interpreter for a fee.

5. Museums and culture

San Antonio is home to a wide variety of cultural attractions, from unique art collections to science exhibits. There’s something for everyone. For example:

And there’s more:

  • The Witte Museum of History Science and Culture
  • Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
  • Fort Sam Houston Museum
  • McNay Art Museum
  • San Antonio Museum of Art
  • Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum
  • Southwest School of Art
  • Artplace

For a complete list of area museums, and links to all those listed above, click here.

6. Family fun

If you’re looking for something to do with the family, or if you just want to tap into that inner child, here are a few all-age options.

San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium

3903 North Saint Mary’s Street

Splashtown San Antonio

3500 North IH-35

Waterslides, wave pool, and kids’ lagoon

7. Enjoy the views

Check out the breathtaking view from the Tower of the Americas, a 750-foot-tall tower that delivers a spectacular view of the Alamo City. Enjoy dinner at the Chart House Restaurant, take in the scenery from the Observation Deck, or experience the thrilling 4D Theater Ride.

8. Special events

If you’re looking for something to do during pre-conference opening weekend, check out one of these free public events.

Saturday, May 16, Armed Forces Day

Professionally decorated floats will travel down the River Walk, themed according to their participants — all branches of service, veterans of recent conflicts, military support groups and more.

For more information, click here.

Sunday May 17, Burgers, BBQ, and Beer

The Pearl 200 East Grayson Street, San Antonio

1 to 4 p.m.

$45 ($55 at the door)

Follow the sights and smells – to your favorite chefs grilling up their specialty. This is so much more than your backyard barbecue – but, definitely includes all of the elements – burgers and the beer along with music and a fun, relaxed setting. This is an outdoor event with room for the kids to play!

For more information, click here.

Try and try again: Not everyone can pass the CCDS exam on the first attempt

CCDS certification discussed during latest Quarterly Membership Call

CCDS certification

If everyone passed the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) credential exam it wouldn’t be a very valid test would it? We hear from people who are surprised, even embarrassed, if they fail. They tell us that there has to be a mistake. They passed their nursing boards with ease. They’ve never failed an exam in their lives.

Although perfectly true, past successes don’t necessarily mean that an individual will be able to pass the CCDS exam—not everyone passes this exam the first time they take it. We have people who don’t pass until their third or fourth attempt. We had one persistent CDI specialist who remained confident and determined—and passed on her fifth try.

Here are our exam stats for the January and February 2015:

  • First time testers: 114; Passed 84 (75.7%); Failed 27 (24.3%); Absent 3
  • Repeat testers: 20; Passed 11 (55%); Failed 9 (45%)
  • Total testers: 131; Passed 95 (72.5%); Failed 36 (27.5%); Absent 3

Here are the exam stats for 2014:

  • First time testers: 696; Passed 531 (75.4%); Failed 165 (23.7%); Absent 14
  • Repeat testers: 131; Passed 89 (67.9%); Failed 42 (32.1%); Absent 4
  • Total testers: 827; Passed 620 (75%); Failed 207 (25%); Absent 18

The overall pass rate for 2103 was 75.5%; the first-time pass rate of about 76% means that there are plenty of smart, savvy, experienced, veteran CDI professionals who are not successful on their first attempt.

The CCDS Exam Study Guide continues to be the only printed reference for exam prep assistance. Our CDI Boot Camps are excellent programs to build your CDI foundation and fundamentals, but none are designed or promoted to be exam prep courses. Experience is the best preparation tool. And remember, because the CCDS credential was designed as a mark of experience and excellence, those wishing to obtain certification need to have at least two years’ experience before they can sit for the exam.  Even if you have the minimum experience required, you may just need a little more time in the position. Consider waiting just a bit—give yourself the advantage of a stronger foundation.

Talk to your colleagues and ask them to share their expertise. If you are an ACDIS member, get onto the CDI Talk group and ask Talkers to share their experiences. Search the Talk archives for threads about exam prep.

If you have one, connect with your local ACDIS chapter and find others who are studying (here is the local chapter link from the ACDIS web site). A study group can be very successful. If you don’t have a local chapter, reach out to your co-workers, or find study partners over CDI Talk, and develop on online conversation to help you prepare.

If you have questions, review the CCDS handbook on the ACDIS website, or reach out to me. I’m here to answer your questions. We wish you the best as you continue to strive for your CCDS certification.

Reminder: New CEU requirements for CCDS recertification

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

The number of CEUs required for recertification will go up to 30 on March 1.

With February coming to a close, we wanted to take a minute to remind everyone about some upcoming changes with the CCDS certification.

Effective March 1, the price of a non-member CCDS exam will go up to $355. There is a new application on our website under the “How to Apply” tab.  The number of CEUs required for recertification will go up from 20 to 30. There is a new application and a new version of the CCDS Candidate Handbook on the website.

There are several ways to obtain CEUs towards your CCDS recertification, including our CDI Journal quiz, participation in ACDIS quarterly conference calls, ACDIS local chapter meetings and conferences, and HCPro CDI Bootcamps.

Those whose CCDS expiration dates fall close to March 1, 2015 change in requirements may need additional assistance. Rest assured we will work with you to manage the change.

ACDIS sends reminder notices 90, 60, and 30 days prior to your CCDS expiration. To ensure you receive these notices make sure to communicate any email or mailing address changes to us. You may do this via the Contact Us link on the ACDIS web site. It’s your responsibility to notify ACDIS of any address changes and ultimately, your responsibility to know when your certification expires.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Penny Richards.

Conference Update: Call for poster presentations open

Share your CDI success with ACDIS conference attendees.

Share your CDI success with ACDIS conference attendees.

Have you thought about presenting a poster at the 2015 ACDIS conference in San Antonio? It’s a great opportunity to showcase your organization’s CDI program and success with a national audience. This popular event is always well-received by conference attendees. To give you an idea of what you might present, here is a partial list of topics from last year (you can view them in the Forms & Tools Library under “conference materials”):

  • Work flow, tracking processes, DG denials
  • Anatomy of an effective query
  • Documentation impact on quality, reimbursement
  • Pediatric-specific tip sheets per service line
  • Transforming from I-9 to I-10
  • Effective provider communication and education
  • Physician champions in urology
  • Malnutrition documentation
  • Charting query success
  • The value of ancillary services

Posters will be on display in the exhibit hall throughout the conference. Presenters are required to be on site for a dedicated time, one to two hours, to speak with conference attendees about their poster. Presenters may bring handouts, though 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 website following the conference.

To apply to present a poster in San Antonio, click this link, download the application, and return it by February 13. The conference committee will review the applications and select acceptable ideas for conference presentation. Limit, one poster per facility will be approved. Presenters receive a $200 discount off their conference registration fee (one discount per poster).

Email Penny Richards with questions.

Clarifying new CEU requirements for CCDS recertification

Changes took place.

The number of CEUs required to recertify the CCDS certification will rise from 20 to 30 on March 1.

We kicked a hornet’s nest when we announced earlier this month that the number of CEUs required to recertify the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) certification will rise from 20 to 30 on March 1.

A number of people wrote to us, concerned that they won’t be able to meet the new 30 CEU requirement.

We find that the great majority of people recertifying generally submit many more than 20 CEUs with their application. And, since we accept CEUs from a number of agencies other than ACDIS (including AHIMA, AAPC, ANCC, among the most frequently accepted) the likelihood that this new requirement will stymie a candidate’s ability to recertify we anticipate will be negligible.

The following include several ways to obtain CEUs towards your CCDS recertification:

  • CDI Journal quiz: The CDI Journal is published six times a year beginning in 2015. ACDIS members may read the magazine and take the corresponding exam for one credit per edition.
  • ACDIS quarterly conference calls: Held four times a year, and free for ACDIS members, these calls also qualify for one CEU credit upon the completion of the accompanying survey.
  • Annual ACDIS National Conference: The eighth annual ACDIS National Conference supports 13 CEU credits. We know how valuable the information shared at the conference can be to your professional and programmatic growth and the number of CEUs awarded for attendance supports this.
  • ACDIS Local Chapter Meetings and conferences: There are more than 30 local chapters meeting throughout the country in 2015, many of which offer extensive educational sessions and work with ACDIS national to provide CCDS CEU credits to their members. Visit the Local Chapter page on the ACDIS website to connect with the chapter nearest you.
  • HCPro CDI Boot Camps: There are a number of CDI and coding Boot Camps available which offer credits, the numbers of which vary depending on the length and subject matter of the program. Check the Boot Camp web page to learn the CEUs for a particular program.
  • Up to 10 CEUs for any other single activity, such as conferences and training by other agencies and associations.
  • CEUs at a rate of 1-for-1 for individual training and education activities that are CDI training and education, ICD-10, clinical (disease or diagnosis), coding, documentation improvement activities, or diagnosis/pathophysiology education  from other organizations, such as AHIMA and AAPC, nursing CEUs and CME credits.
  • Completing college courses relevant to healthcare/healthcare management, CDI, or clinical coursework for creditor degrees (10 CEUs per credit).
  • Presenting CDI-related topics at seminars/speaking engagements (two CEUs for each half-hour of presentation time).

Those whose CCDS expiration dates fall close to March 1, 2015 change in requirements may need additional assistance. Rest assured we will work with you to manage the change.

ACDIS sends reminder notices 90, 60, and 30 days prior to your CCDS expiration. To ensure you receive these notices make sure to communicate any email or mailing address changes to us. You may do this via the Contact Us link on the ACDIS web site. It’s your responsibility to notify ACDIS of any address changes and ultimately, your responsibility to know when your certification expires.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Penny Richards.



Reminder: Changes to the CCDS processes implemented Oct. 1

Changes took place.

Do you have your pin?

The following changes took effect on October 1, 2014:

1. Exam eligibility period will change from one year to 120 days (four months) in which to schedule and take the exam

Candidates will have 120 days (four months) to schedule and take their CCDS exam. Once the application is approved, ACDIS submits the candidate’s names to the exam company. The exam company emails (and mails) the candidate’s scheduling instructions. The candidate is responsible for scheduling his or her exam at a location and date convenient to him or her.

Note: Presently, candidates have a one-year window in which to take the exam. Any candidate sent to the exam company prior to October 1, 2014, will be grandfathered into the one-year eligibility window.

Candidates who do not take their exam within the eligibility period forfeit their exam fee and must reapply.

2. Re-exam fee will change from $100 to $125.

This fee is applicable for a one-time only re-exam for a candidate who fails on his or her first attempt. It also applies to candidates who are absent from their scheduled exam. ACDIS is charged by its testing company for every scheduled exam. Candidates may change their scheduled testing date one time with no fee, and must do so by contacting the exam company at least two business days prior to their scheduled testing appointment.

3. Fees implemented for replacement certificates and lapel pins

Replacements for certificates and pins damaged in transit will be provided at no cost. ACDIS will assess a fee of $25 each for other replacement requests for certificates and lapel pins. The fee is payable by check or credit card at the time of the request.

All replacement orders and payment instructions should be sent to: ACDIS CCDS Administrator, 75 Sylvan Street #A101, Danvers MA 01923 Email:; Fax: 781-639-5542

Reminder: Your CCDS re-certification is due by the two-year anniversary of the date you passed the exam. There is no current plan to restructure the CCDS re-certification requirements to include any specific number or level of ICD-10-related continuing education units. You may re-certify at your convenience and if you need more time, there is a 45-day grace period.

For example if you passed the CCDS exam on Sept. 1, 2014, you need to re-certify by Sept. 1, 2016. Using the 45-day grace period, it will be due no later than November 15, 2016. To re-certify, you need to submit continuing education credits earned during the two year period that you held the CCDS certification (so, from Sept. 1, 2014 to Sept. 1, 2016).

When you are ready to renew, complete the re-certification application, and send it, along with proof of CEUs and the applicable fee, to the address on the application (mail, fax, or email). The application is available on the ACDIS website.

We send several courtesy email notices as your renew date approaches, but you may not hear from us if we don’t have your correct email address or if our notices are blocked on your end. Make note of when your recert due date (your original exam date is on your certificate and on the score sheet you got when you took the exam). It is your responsibility to know when you recertification is due. If you’re not sure of your exam date, drop me an email and I’ll look it up.