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CPC: 1,027 paras earned certification during 2011

September 7, 2012

Some 1,027 paraoptometrics achieved entry-level or advanced certification through the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) last year, according to the commission’s recently released “2011 Year in Review” report. That includes those taking part in the commission’s new Certified Paraoptometric Coder™ (CPOC) program.

In all, more than 6,000 paraoptometrics across the United States, Canada, and on U.S. military bases around the world now maintain certification through the program, the report noted.

The CPC continues to offer the only certfication program developed specifically for optometric office personnel.

The commission offers four levels of certification, coinciding with the levels of responsibility that paraoptometrics are commonly assigned in practices:

  • Certified paraoptometric (CPO),
  • Certified paraoptometric assistant (CPOA),
  • Certified paraoptometric technician (CPOT), and
  • Certified paraoptometric coder (CPOC).

Of the 1,027 optometric office staff members who successfully completed CPC certification examinations last year, 693 achieved entry-level certified paraoptometric status, 185 advanced to the certified paraopotmetric assistant level, and 64 became top-level certified paraoptometric technicians.

Thirty-two successfully demonstated proficiency in practice-related skills through the commision’s practical exam. Fifty-three received coding certification.

Overall, some 1,162 candidates took CPC examinations last year, with 88 percent passing.

Nine out of 10 (91.5 percent) of the 757 candidates for entry-level CPO certification achieved the required 75 percent passing grade on a 100-question test covering basic science, clinical principles and procedures, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, and professional issues.

Eight out of 10 (81 percent) of the 229 candidates for CPOA certification achieved the required 67.5 percent passing score on a 225-question test covering office operations, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, testing and procedures, special procedures, refractive status of the eye and binocularity, and basic ocular anatomy and physiology.

Nearly nine out of 10 (89 percent) of the 72 candidates for CPOT certification achieved the required 66.8 percent passing grade on a 250-question exam covering pre-testing procedures, clinical procedures, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, refractive status of the eye and binocularity, anatomy and physiology, and practice management.

Ninety-one percent of the 35 paraoptometrics who took the CPOT Practical Examination last year achieved the required passing grades in a three-station exam (case history/ pre-testing, contact lenses/ drop instillation/ blood pressure procedure, and neutralization/ ophthalmic dispensing) covering 170 tasks and related subjects.

Three-quarters (77 percent) of the 69 candidates who took the new CPOC achieved the minimum 70 percent passing grade on a 150-question exam covering anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, the Current Procedural Terminology® coding system, diagnosis codes, paper and electronic medical records, claim filing and regulatory compliance.

Candidates generally scored best on the medical terminology, diagnosis coding, and medical records sections of the tests. They generally posted their lowest score on the claim filing and anatomy and physiology sections.

With the certification program now a decade old, many long-time optometric office staff members have now achieved entry and advanced level certification, CPC staff noted.

Younger and less experienced candidates are sitting for the examinations. As a result, scores for some sections of the tests are decreasing, the CPC report noted.

For that reason, practitioners may wish to review their staff training policies and consider providing more formal education programs for their office personnel, CPC staff suggested.

The AOA Paraoptometric Section offers a variety of both training and continuing education programs. In addition, the AOA Clinical Resources Group has developed several practice resource tools on the AOA website that may be helpful to paraoptometric staff. The AOA Paraoptometric Section offers a column on paraoptometric issues in the AOA News.

To be certified at any level, candidates must pass a proctored, written examination. CPOT candidates must also pass a practical examination within three years of the written examination. (Graduates of Accreditation Council on Optometric Education-approved civilian or military optometric technician programs are exempt from the practical examination.)

Candidates for all levels of certification must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Candidates for advanced CPC certification (CPOA, CPOT) must either hold a lower level of certification offered by the commission, be students in a related education program, or meet other eligibility requirements. For each level of certification, the CPC offers a recommended self-study program and optional review course. Candidates for the CPOC exam must have a high school diploma or equivalent and a minimum of two years of medical coding experience.

In addition to the initial certification program, the CPC offers recertification as a mechanism to ensure its certificants remain current in their optometric assisting skills and continue to develop professional expertise through continuing education activities.

In order to maintain certification at any level, the paraoptometric must meet renewal requirements, including 18 hours of documented continuing education over a three-year period. Those renewing a coding certification will need a minimum of nine hours of appropriately related continuing education over a three-year period. Written exams are proctored five times a year (February, May, June, August, November), while the CPOT Practical Examination is offered two to three times at various locations around the country. All examinations (with the exception of the CPOT Practical) are offered during four eight-day testing periods as a computer-based examination. A “paper and pencil” examination is offered in conjunction with Optometry’s Meeting®.

AOA and AOA Paraoptometric Section members can access information on CPC certification and paraoptometric training programs at www.aoa.org/x4932.xml.

Paraoptometric certification levels

  • Certified paraoptometrics (CPOs) must have demonstrated competency in basic optometric office duties. They are tested for proficiency in the areas of basic science, clinical principles and procedures, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, and related professional issues.
  • Certified paraoptometric assistants (CPOAs) must have the skills necessary to take on management responsibilities within the office. They must demonstrate proficiency in office operations, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, testing procedures, special procedures, refractive status of the eye and binocularity, as well as basic ocular anatomy and physiology and basic ocular pharmacology. They are also expected to be familiar with all CPO-level subject matter.
  • Certified paraoptometric technicians (CPOT) must be able to assist optometrists with a range of patient care functions such as pre-testing or contact lens dispensing. Certified paraoptometric technicians are tested for proficiency in pre-testing procedures, clinical procedures, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, refractive status of the eye and binocularity, anatomy and physiology, as well as practice management. Candidates are also expected to be familiar with all subject matter from the CPO and CPOA examinations.
  • Certified paraoptometric coders (CPOC) are responsible for ensuring that all of the information about diagnoses and procedures for patients is accurate and complete. They are tested for proficiency in the Current Procedural Terminology® coding system, diagnosis codes, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical records (paper/electronic), claim filing, and regulatory compliance. Candidates must have a minimum of two years of experience in coding and billing.

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