The good news for medical office managers is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment for medical and health services managers will increase 23% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS and other sources indicate that the baby boom population will spur growth in the healthcare industry as their need for medical services increases as they age. The BLS also indicates that employment in medical offices in particular is expected to grow as services shift from hospitals to office settings — due in part to changing technology.
How can you set yourself apart from those seeking to gain entry to your profession and other managers already in the profession? How can you demonstrate to your physicians the value you bring to the medical practice?
Consider continuing education and professional certification to demonstrate your experience and knowledge.
Value of certification
A BLS report on medical and health services managers notes that while office managers aren’t required to be certified, some managers do obtain certification. The report also noted that “[m]edical and health services managers advance by moving into more responsible and higher paying positions.” One way to move into a more responsible position is by obtaining advanced training, education, and credentials.
While not specifically addressing the healthcare sector, a survey of human resources professionals indicated employers value professional certification. A survey conducted by HR Certification Institute and B2B International queried over 1,500 human resources professionals to “understand the awareness, perceptions, and value of HR and other professional certifications, certificates, and degree programs,” according to a press release announcing the survey results.
The Institute indicated the survey showed 62% of US employers “consider professionally certified employees to have a strong impact on a company’s profitability.” The survey also indicated factors affecting the certification’s value include reputation of the entity awarding the credential, “experience-based exams” and continuing education requirements.
The results of that survey are translatable to the healthcare sector and office managers. Certifications can demonstrate your experience, knowledge, and commitment to continuing education.
When you are looking for the right certification program for you, consider what the program requires of you and what areas of your knowledge or experience it “tests.”
Types of office manager certifications
There are numerous certifications and credentials available for healthcare professionals. They range from general management certifications to certifications and credentials specific to particular tasks and activities performed by healthcare administrators such as compliance, billing and coding, and information technology. There are several certifications that are specific to the medical office manager role and we limit our focus to those certifications for purposes of this article.
Here is a summary of some of the certifications we found that are tailored specifically for medical office managers. We’ve listed them according to the number of years of work experience required for eligibility, starting with the program requiring the most experience.
Professional Association of Healthcare Office Managers (PAHCOM)
PAHCOM offers a credential titled Certified Medical Manager (CMM) for managers of solo and small group practices. The three-hour certification exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions answered in a proctored environment (at a testing center or the annual PAHCOM conference). Topics covered in the exam include insurance/managed healthcare plans, finance, risk management, contracting (healthcare and corporate contracts), data management, human resources, communication, administrative issues (managing and leading staff, time management), clinical knowledge administration, and marketing.
Applicants seeking the CMM credential must have the following to be eligible:
- Three years of work experience in healthcare – in support of patient care in a medical practice or clinical setting
- Twelve college credit hours in courses relevant to healthcare or business management. If the applicant has more than three years work experience, each extra year counts as one credit hour.
- Membership in PAHCOM
Those awarded the CMM credential have to obtain 24 continuing education credits every two years and maintain PAHCOM membership to retain the credential.
Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)
MGMA offers two credentials for office managers through its certification division, American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE): Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE) and Fellow of the American College of Medical Practice Executives (FACMPE). MGMA’s website describes the CMPE as “the only board certification in medical practice management.” Obtaining the certification requires taking a 175-question multiple choice test and an essay exam and completing 50 hours of continuing education. The multiple choice test lasts three hours 15 minutes and the essay exam lasts 90 minutes. The MGMA website offers a free “Personal Inventory” and a “Body of Knowledge Quiz” and sample essay questions to help applicants self-assess whether they are ready to take the exam. Applicants can also purchase a workbook and “Knowledge Assessment” to help them prepare for the exam.
- 2 or more years of experience in healthcare management, including at least 6 months supervisory duties and “significant functional responsibility” in at least one domain from the Body of Knowledge for medical executives
- MGMA membership
The CMPE examination originally covered eight “domains” or areas of expertise relevant to practice management that the organization refers to as a Body of Knowledge. The eight domains are being revised effective December 2014 into six domains: business operations, financial management, human resource management, organizational governance, patient care systems, and risk management. The other two domains, quality management and information management, are now being integrated into the other domains.
After achieving CMPE board certification, managers are eligible for fellowship in ACMPE. Fellows can use the designation FACMPE. Fellowship requires completion of a professional paper or three case studies. The professional paper must describe the objectives and results of an investigation of a healthcare management topic. The topic and an outline must be submitted for approval to an ACMPE Professional Papers Committee for approval. Alternatively, a candidate can draft three case studies analyzing specific professional experiences. These must demonstrate problem-solving skills in management situations the individual has faced. The study must provide background information and discuss the merits of solutions considered and the ultimate course of action chosen.
The ACMPE Certification Commission and MGMA Board review applicants monthly and vote to grant certification or fellowship as to qualifying applicants. Those who attain CMPE certification or FACMPE fellowship must gain 50 hours of qualifying continuing education every three years to maintain the credentials.
Practice Management Institute (PMI)
PMI offers a credential titled Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM)®. Applicants take a four-hour, 100-question multiple choice proctored exam covering the following topics: managed care and the medical practice, practice administration, personnel and time management, and financial management. To be eligible, applicants must have at least one year experience in a medical practice or, if less than one year of experience, they must complete supplemental medical office training before enrolling.
Applicants can take a live preparatory program or an independent self-paced training program or live webinars before taking the exam. Alternatively, experienced managers can skip the preparatory training and just take the exam. Successful applicants must renew their certification annually with 12 CEUs needed each year. Nine of those credits must be in the core competencies: practice management, practice administration, accounting, budgeting, financial policies, medical records, contract negotiation, physician utilization, marketing, human resources, supervision/training, risk management, managed care, medical coding, provider reimbursement, practice compliance.
AAPC (formerly American Academy of Professional Coders)
The AAPC offers an office manager credential titled Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM®). To earn the credential, applicants must take a 200-question, multiple-choice proctored exam in five hours and 40 minutes. For a fee, AAPC offers a 3-month online course for 20 CEUs or a 3-day boot camp for 22.5 CEUs to prepare for the exam. It also provides an online practice exam. AAPC’s website indicates the topics covered in the certification exam include: healthcare business processes (16 questions), healthcare reform (5 questions), compliance (25 questions), quality in healthcare (5 questions), medical office accounting (25 questions), physician reimbursement (20 questions), healthcare revenue cycle management (25 questions), human resources (15 questions), marketing and business relationships (10 questions), space planning and operational flows (10 questions), HIPAA (15 questions), electronic medical record (10 questions), health information exchange (3 questions), modern health IT (8 questions), disaster planning (8 questions).
To be eligible, applicants must have current AAPC membership. No professional experience is required but two years is highly recommended. Additionally, there is no requirement to have a coding credential but the AAPC website cautions “these are difficult, high level examinations and are not meant for individuals with little, limited or no coding or relevant professional experience.”
To maintain the certification, managers must have 36 CEUs related to practice management every two years. If the individual has more than one certification from AAPC (the organization offers specialty coding and compliance certifications), the CEU requirements will vary.
Center for Individual Excellence (CIE)™ – CSME accredited
CIE™ and CSME offer the Certified Medical Office Manager Practitioner (CMMP) credential focused on the nonclinical side of the office. The basic training consists of a 90-hour basic medical office manager distance learning program and an online exam. The basic training is for those entering the profession. Applicants who have experience can take the advanced medical office manager training, which is a 45-hour distance learning program in advanced topics with an online exam. After the advanced program is completed, the applicant is eligible to take the CMMP certification exam.
The CMMP certification is good for two years. To maintain certification, individuals need to obtain 24 CEUs every two years.
Physician Office Managers Association of America (POMAA)
POMAA offers a Certified Practice Manager (CPM®) credential. Applicants need to be a POMAA member. Applicants can purchase study guides and practice exams to help prepare for the exam. The exam can be taken online or in person at one of POMAA’s conferences and seminars. One year of professional work experience is recommended but not required. Exam topics include principles of management, human resource management, OSHA, HIPAA, employment law, healthcare law. Twelve CEUs each year are required to maintain certification.
In 2013, POMAA also introduced a Certified Medical Office Supervisor (CMOS®) certification for supervisors in front or back office, lab or clinical positions in a medical office setting.
The Medical Management Institute (MMI)
MMI offers a Registered Medical Manager Training Program (RMM). The RMM training is a six-month, online learning program with an online certification exam. Both the training and the exam must be completed within six months of enrolling. The MMI website and brochure indicate the certification is designed for “physician-office based coders & billers looking to advance their careers as well as those looking to become a practice manager, business office administrator, or medical office staff member.”
Topics listed in the syllabus for the program include: strategic planning, marketing, income distribution, benefits and wages, leadership, insurance plans, financial outcomes and controls, compliance, billing and coding, HIPAA, OSHA, and CLIA. The training includes interaction with an assigned instructor. The program notes it is registered with and adheres to the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission guidelines.
To maintain the certification, managers must maintain membership in MMI and obtain 12 continuing education units each year. Individuals who have more than one certification from MMI will need to obtain 6 additional CEUs for each additional certification.
Medical assistant certifications
Based on our review of some help wanted advertisements, some medical offices prefer a manager also have some clinical involvement and require a Medical Assistant. There are several certifications for medical assistants.
If you are interested in obtaining a medical assistant credential, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical and Health Services Managers; at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm (visited May 29. 2014).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Assistants; at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm (visited May 29, 2014).
HR Certification Institute and B2B International, Press release, “Study Shows that HR Professionals and Employers Place Value in Professional Certification, Consider Certified Professionals as Assets to Business Profitability,” June 27, 2010; available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/28/idUS134162+28-Jun-2010+BW20100628 (visited May 29, 2014).