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A Note from the CCDS Coordinator: What CEUs can I submit for my CCDS recertification?

CCDSpinACDIS will accept as many CDI-related CEUs from other organizations (such as AHIMA and JATA) as you wish to submit with this exception: For any event that awards more than 10 CEUs, we will accept 10.

For example, if you attend an AHIMA training and it awards (for example)15 CEUS, we will accept 10 for your recertification.

If you attend an AHIMA webinar or similar training that awards you one or two CEUs, we will accept as many of those events as you wish to submit. We’ll accept the entire 30 you need to recertify.

The key is that no single event can award more than 10.

The same applies to CEUs you earn from ANCC, AAPC, CME, and other agencies that provide CDI-related training. We consider CDI-related training to be the exact kinds of training you mentioned in your initial email: CDI, inpatient coding, technology, DRG, reimbursement, plus anatomy and physiology, ICD-10 disease process.

The document on our website explains how we count CEUS from other agencies:

Item 6:
Submit up to 10 CEUs for other single activities that provide CDI training and education, ICD‐10, clinical (disease or diagnosis), coding, documentation improvement activities, or diagnosis/pathophysiology education from other organizations, such as AHIMA, AAPC and ANCC, and CME credits.

Item 7:
Submit 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, AAPC and ANCC, and CME credits.

We routinely accept training from companies such as 3M and Precyse as long as it is CDI-related training, to a maximum of 10 for any single training event. Some companies, such as 3M, Panacea, and Reimbursement Review Associates, have purchased ACDIS CEUs for their large programs, and we accept all of these CEUs. You’ll know if you can submit them all because the certificate will clearly indicate that the program awarded a specific number of CCDS CEUs.

Click here to learn more about CCDS certification.

A Note from the CCDS Coordinator: Congratulations to our 3,500th CCDS holder!

The 3,500th CCDS holder Jamie Brown and her two children—daughter, Kaitlyn, age nine, and son Cody, age seven.

The 3,500th CCDS holder Jamie Brown and her two children—daughter, Kaitlyn, age nine, and son Cody, age seven.

A couple of weeks ago, the 3,500th person to hold the CCDS certification passed the exam. We are delighted to introduce you to Jaime Brown, BSN, RN, CCDS, a CDI specialist at Ochsner Health System at Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Please join us in congratulating her on this tremendous accomplishment!

Before becoming a nurse, Brown had a career as a commercial loan underwriter for a major financial institution before obtaining her bachelor of science in nursing. She worked in oncology for seven years and has been in CDI for three years.

“CDI has been an awesome professional opportunity,” says Brown. “I have had the opportunity to increase my clinical knowledge, learn the financial side of healthcare, and be a part of the formative years of this unique profession all while having the flexibility to be there for my children when they need me.”

Brown has two children—daughter, Kaitlyn, age nine, and son Cody, age seven. She enjoys her free time trying new restaurants and catching up with family and friends.

ACDIS: Why did you get into this line of work?

Brown: I was looking for a change and saw the job posting. It peaked my curiosity because it was the “business” side of nursing.

ACDIS: What has been your biggest challenge?

Brown: The biggest challenge for me is that there is usually not a straight answer to a question. Each admission is different and no two clinical scenarios are the same.

ACDIS: What has been your biggest reward?

Brown: The biggest reward has been seeing the financial and quality impact I can have through my chart reviews. It’s always nice to query for the only MCC on a record or clarify something with a provider so that their record is accurate. Although I am not at the bedside, I can still make a difference. I also feel like I have learned more from a clinical aspect in the last three years in CDI than I did in my seven years at the bedside.

ACDIS: How has the field changed since you began working in CDI?

Brown: When I started in CDI, we were still in ICD-9. Most people had not heard about CDI. We worked strictly with inpatient records. Today, we code in ICD-10. Other medical professionals have heard about our role and providers are looking to expand our role. My employer now has an additional program specifically for reviewing ambulatory records. (Click here to learn more about that program.) I can only imagine where CDI will be in another three years.

ACDIS: Can you mention a few of the “gold nuggets” of information you’ve received from colleagues on CDI Talk or through ACDIS?

Brown: One of our primary responsibilities as CDI professionals is to educate providers. When I started, I often wondered if we would ever educate them enough to the extent that we would be out of a job. I have learned rather quickly that CDI will always be in demand because the rules are so complex and there are always new providers to train. If you miss a query opportunity, it is a learning opportunity.

ACDIS: What piece of advice would you offer to a new CDI specialist?

Brown: There is a learning curve in this job like none other. Just when you think you understand the concepts, you will be faced with a situation that makes you question your new found understanding. Confidence and understanding come with time. Be patient.

ACDIS: If you could have any other job, what would it be?

Brown: I would love to be a personal financial advisor, managing everyday household finances. I love a spreadsheet and have serious organizational skills. I make a spreadsheet for just about everything, including vacations!

ACDIS: What was your first job (what you did while in high school)?

Brown: I was a store clerk at Afterthoughts Boutique in high school. I pierced ears and sold jewelry and hair accessories.

ACDIS: Can you tell us about a few of your favorite things:

  • Vacation spots: Chicago and Florida beaches
  • Hobby: Dining at new restaurants–there are always new places to try in New Orleans
  • Non-alcoholic beverage: Diet Coke
  • Foods: Boiled crawfish and steak
  • Activity: Hanging out with my kids and friends

A Note from the CCDS Coordinator: Exam prep tips from our education director

CCDS Exam Study Guide

CCDS Exam Study Guide

by Penny Richards

As the coordinator for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam program, lots of folks ask me for CCDS exam prep tips. But I’m not a CDI professional—I don’t even play one on television—so I asked our CDI Education Director and Boot Camp instructor, Laurie Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP, CRC, for her expert advice.

“Some of getting ready for the exam is mental,” she told me. “If you’ve been working as a clinical documentation specialist for the minimum two years required [to sit for the exam], and you understand the role, you likely have the skills you need to pass.”

Prescott also provided me with a list of great tips that I thought I’d share with you:

  1. Use the CCDS Exam Study Guide, which comes with an online practice test.
  2. If you are an ACDIS member, take advantage of the great information on the website and the ACDIS Forum to talk to other members about their preparation and exam experiences.
  3. Read the 2016 ACDIS/AHIMA Query Practice Brief to help you understand compliant query practices.
  4. You must know how to use the DRG Expert. If you are encoder dependent and don’t know how to use the book, you’re going to have a difficult time. Find someone who can show you how to use the book, perhaps a member of your CDI or coding department. It’s not easily self-taught.
  5. Read the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting and be aware of the importance of the AHA’s Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS. I am always amazed by the number of people working in CDI who have never picked up a coding book or read coding guidelines.
  6. Understand sequencing rules.
  7. A CDI Boot Camp would be helpful if you have the time and resources.
  8. Think about how you perform the role of CDI, how you review a record, and prioritize patient care.
  9. Metrics and analytics measure department success and some CDI specialists may not be familiar with this aspect of the program. Sit with your manager and ask him or her how to develop and interpret the data. Learn how to define and calculate the case mix index. Know what a query response rate is.
  10. Think about areas you may not have a lot of experience in, such as a specific clinical subject, procedures, etc., and study up on this area. Remember, this exam tests the overall function of CDI practice, meaning it may cover information not currently pertinent to your role due to the limitations of your facility.
  11. Finally, while it’s important to study and prepare, don’t try to do it all the night before.  Eat a good dinner and get a solid night of sleep.

Thank you, Laurie, for providing these tips! For more information on CCDS certification, click here.

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.


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.

ACDIS Updates: CCDS webinar tomorrow, membership Quarterly Call Thursday

Changes took place.

Changes took place.

CCDS Webinar

Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 19, from 1-2 p.m., ET, our own CCDS Coordinator Penny Richards, CPC-A,  joins Cheryl Ericson, MS, RN, CCDS, CDIP, AHIMA-Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer and Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS, for a free, 60-minute webinar exploring the most frequently asked questions regarding the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) credential and examination process. During the call, the panel will  discuss:

  • How to apply
  • How to prepare for the exam
  • What resources are available for study
  • Re-certification processes

In addition to the agenda, speakers will be answering questions live. To register, visit “CCDS FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Taking the ACDIS CCDS Certification Exam.”

Join us for an audio conference regarding malnutrition documentation and coding.

Join us for the ACDIS Quarterly Conference Call Thursday, Aug. 20

Quarterly Conference Call

ACDIS members can dial-in to a free topic-focused telephone conference call with leaders and Advisory Board members this Thursday, August 20, from 1-2 p.m., ET. This quarter’s agenda includes:

  • Pulling past medical history forward from EHR for CDI purposes
  • Ethics and ethical CDI practices
  • The role of the physician advisor in CDI
  • ICD-10-CM/PCS
  • Your Q&As

We want your ideas and questions!
If you have a question to ask the ACDIS advisory board, or general suggestions for discussion on the upcoming call, please e-mail Associate Director Melissa Varnavas at

Conference calls are a great way to ask a question, air any and all CDI concerns, or gather input on a policy or procedure at your hospital. ACDIS members have access to this and all the Quarterly Conference Calls Archives on our website While we cannot guarantee your question or discussion point will be addressed on the call, we will try to work in as many as possible.

Please note that due to heavy call volume, we recommend that you dial in 10 minutes early. Dial-in instructions were set to ACDIS members via email this week. If you are an ACDIS member and did not recieve your instructions, call our customer service department by no later than 11 a.m. on the day of the live call at 877-240-6586 or email

We look forward to talking with you then!

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]

How do I get into CDI?

If you have an opening at your facility for a CDI specialist why not post it to the ACDIS job board?

If you are interested in becoming a CDI specialist learn as much as possible about the field.

We’re happy to hear that you’re interested in joining the CDI profession. You do not need to have the CCDS credential to become a CDI specialist. The CCDS represents a mark of distinction for those who have been working in the field for a number of years. In fact, you must be a working CDI specialists for at least two years before you can sit for the exam.

If you are interested in becoming a CDI specialist we recommend that you first learn as much as possible about the field. Review the materials on the ACDIS website (much of it is free) and take lots of notes. If you have a local chapter in your area, call or email the leadership and ask if you can attend a meeting. If you have a CDI program at your facility, ask the program staff if you can shadow them for a day to learn more about the work they do. If you do not have a CDI program at your facility, reach out to neighboring hospitals and see if their program would host you for a morning or an afternoon.


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.