Healthcare IT continues to rise as health systems make bigger investments in technology and security. Today, numerous certifications, from a mix of IT industry vendors and healthcare-focused organizations, specifically target IT professionals who work in this rapidly growing field.
Money spent on healthcare in the United States represents roughly 18 percent of the economy. Going forward, healthcare spending is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 5.6 percent annually per capita. Thus, there will always be plenty of jobs in healthcare IT.
The size and growth of the certification market also explains the certifying bodies that cover IT. We see a mix of industry organizations, such as (ISC)², that track gross economic and employment trends very carefully. A handful of other IT organizations, with IT professionals at the helm, also focus on healthcare.
The results of an informal job search below give you an idea of the relative frequency with which our top five certifications appear in actual job postings. The Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certifications are the most desirable to employers, as evidenced by their high numbers in comparison to other certs.
Job board search results (in alphabetical order, by certification)
*RHIA results include many employers hiring for coding positions that list the RHIA as a preferred certification.
Salary expectations within IT healthcare vary by job role. For example, SimplyHired reports average salaries for IT professionals working as healthcare technicians, healthcare helpdesk specialists or helpdesk technicians as being in the mid-30s with highs in the upper 50s and low 60s. For example, those engaged in desktop support roles can expect to earn between $35,879 and $59,711. Healthcare IT professionals engaged in management roles command the highest salaries, with reported average earnings in the mid-70s and highs in the low 120s.
CAHIMS and CPHIMS
HIMSS, or the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is a nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare through IT systems.
Its parent organization, HIMSS WorldWide, provides leadership, education and conferences for its members, which include more than 70,000 individuals (most of whom work in healthcare) and more than 600 corporations, plus 450 nonprofits. HIMSS sponsors National Health IT Week, oversees the Electronic Health Records Association, and participates in numerous collaborative activities with like-minded organizations.
The organization offers two Healthcare Information and Management Systems certifications: one at the Certified Associate level (CAHIMS) and the other at the Certified Professional level (CPHIMS).
The CAHIMS is geared toward midlevel healthcare IT professionals with less than five years of experience, working as systems analysts, IT/IS managers and IT/IS consultants, as well as nurses and senior staff. Candidates should have fundamental knowledge of organizational and technical environments. They should be able to analyze, design, select, implement, support, maintain and test healthcare information systems. They should also know how to protect privacy and manage security, manage vendor relationships, and support management and teams.
The next step in the career pathway is the CPHIMS, which recognizes seasoned healthcare IT professionals. This certification covers many of the same topics as the CAHIMS, but emphasizes analysis, management and leadership skills.
CPHIMS candidates must meet educational and work experience requirements, plus submit an application that is reviewed to verify eligibility. Both certifications – CAHIMS and CPHIMS – require candidates to pass a single exam, administered at Prometric or at certain HIMSS conferences and events. The exams test candidates on job-related and experience-based knowledge and information analysis, as well as on fact recall.
Both certifications must be renewed every three years. To renew, candidates must pass either the current exam (at that time) or obtain a minimum of 45 continuing professional education (CPE) credits. A minimum of 25 CEs must be obtained from HIMSS or an approved provider. Canadian CPHIMS (CPHIMS-CA) credential holders are required to earn an additional 15 CEs above and beyond the 45 CEs that CPHIM certification holders earn. Ten of the 15 additional hours must be obtained from Canada's Health Informatics Association (COACH), and all additional hours must pertain to Canadian healthcare information and management systems.
Both HIMSS certifications are relatively new and therefore have a low number of certified individuals, but keep your eye on this organization and its certifications, which could become highly popular over the next few years.
CAHIMS and CPHIMS facts and figures
CHTS: Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist
AHIMA, the American Health Information Management Association, which has more than 103,000 members, offers a reasonably comprehensive, multitiered healthcare IT certification program. Three AHIMA certifications appear in this article – the Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist (CHTS), the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) and the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT).
The CHTS credential is available in six solution tracks, each focused on a different job role's competency area:
- Clinician/Practitioner Consultant (CHTS-CP): The CHTS-CP targets public health professionals working in clinical, professional or public health roles who recommend IT solutions, software and vendors in healthcare settings, and who advocate for users.
- Implementation Manager (CHTS-IM): Implementation managers provide onsite support during health IT implementation projects, lead implementation teams, manage vendor relationships, and serve as liaisons between healthcare professionals and IT vendors.
- Implementation Support Specialist (CHTS-IS): CHTS-IS credential holders provide end-user support on healthcare facility sites during health IT system implementations. Knowledgeable in information management and technology, credential holders can install, configure and test software and hardware, work with vendor tech support to resolve issues, and incorporate usability best practices into healthcare IT system solutions.
- Practice Workflow & Information Management Redesign Specialist (CHTS-PW): The CHTS-PW credential targets healthcare or IT professionals who assist in reorganizing a provider's work environment to work more effectively with healthcare IT systems. CHTS-PW professionals identify and document requirements, design and integrate workflows, and evaluate and validate workflow processes.
- Technical/Software Support Staff (CHTS-TS): CHTS-TS credential holders provide ongoing IT system support in private and public healthcare facilities. Professionals working in this role perform software upgrades, install patches, implement and troubleshoot solutions, implement standards and best practices, and provide for system security.
- Trainer (CHTS-TR): As experts in IT applications for healthcare, CHTS-TR professionals assess training requirements, determine user competency levels, and design and deliver appropriate training.
To earn a CHTS credential, candidates must pass a single exam. There are no prerequisites, but AHIMA recommends at least six months of experience or workforce development training.
CHTS facts and figures
HCISPP: HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner
The (ISC)² HCISPP is geared toward medical records supervisors, compliance officers, IT and security managers, risk analysts, and others who work in hospitals, health centers, consulting firms and even regulatory agencies. An HCISPP has fundamental knowledge and experience in security and privacy controls that protect personal health information.
Candidates must have a minimum of two years of experience in at least one of the six HCISPP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) domains and pass one exam. Experience must be full time, and the candidate must have been compensated for their time.
These are the current HCISPP CBK domains:
- Healthcare Industry
- Regulatory Environment
- Privacy and Security in Healthcare
- Information Governance and Risk Management
- Information Risk Assessment
- Third-Party Risk Management
Recent graduates or folks just entering the healthcare industry might be interested in the Associate of (ISC)² for HCISPP, which requires the same exam as the HCISPP but not the work experience.
Renewal is required every three years. To maintain the credential, certification holders must earn 60 or more continuing professional education credits (CPEs) during the three-year renewal cycle, 20 of which must be earned annually. Certification holders must also abide by the (ISC)² Code of Ethics and pay an annual maintenance fee of $65 ($195 total for three years).
HCISPP facts and figures
RHIA: Registered Health Information Administrator
Our second featured certification from AHIMA, the RHIA provides the knowledge and services that link care providers, patients and payers together in the medical system as practiced in the United States today. RHIAs are experts in managing patient health information and related records, administering health information systems, collecting and analyzing patient data, and using classification systems and medical terminology.
RHIAs must understand medical, administrative, ethical and legal requirements related to healthcare delivery as well as privacy and confidentiality requirements for protected patient data. Such professionals may also manage people and operational units, interact with administrative and technical committees, and provide input for or prepare IT budgets.
RHIA candidates are expected to demonstrate mastery across five domain knowledge areas:
- Domain 1: Data Content, Structure & Standards (Information Governance)
- Domain 2: Information Protection: Access, Disclosure, Archival, Privacy and Security
- Domain 3: Informatics, Analytics and Data Use
- Domain 4: Revenue Management
- Domain 5: Leadership
Unlike most other IT-related certifications, the RHIA credential requires candidates to enroll for a degree in a CAHIIM (Committee for Accrediting Health Information and Information Management) program. So, the RHIA credential may be better suited for those looking for a good IT degree program in the healthcare arena or IT professionals ready to tackle another degree.
Certification is good for a two-year cycle. To recertify, candidates must earn 30 continuing education units (CEUs) and pay a $218 recertification fee. Annual membership fees also apply.
RHIA facts and figures
RHIT: Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
Another popular certification from AHIMA is its Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. RHIT holders are found in a variety of businesses related to healthcare, including hospitals, nursing homes, private care and home healthcare. Credential holders are experts in healthcare record management, as well as making recommendations to control costs while improving patient care based on patient data analysis. Many RHITs specialize in coding or in data compilation for specific illnesses, such as cancer.
RHIT candidates demonstrate mastery across six domain knowledge areas:
- Domain 1: Data Content, Structure and Information Governance
- Domain 2: Access, Disclosure, Privacy and Security
- Domain 3: Data Analytics and Use
- Domain 4: Revenue Cycle Management
- Domain 5: Compliance
- Domain 6: Leadership
As with the RHIA credential, candidates must enroll for a degree in a CAHIIM program and obtain an associate's degree. AHIMA allows some candidates in limited scenarios to apply to take the exam early. These exceptions primarily extend to graduates who have not yet received final transcripts, students in their final semester, and individuals who have finished all coursework and are awaiting graduation.
RHIT renews every three years. Credential holders must earn 20 continuing education units (CEUs) to renew. They must also pay a $218 recertification fee and maintain annual membership.
RHIA facts and figures
Beyond the top 5: Other healthcare IT certifications
AHIMA figures prominently in this article – netting three of the top five slots – but the organization offers several other healthcare-related credentials. These include the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA), the Certified Professional in Health Informatics (CPHI), and several coding and specialty credentials.
Numerous universities with medical schools offer healthcare IT certificate programs, including the University of Connecticut, Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas. These types of programs are generally well worth investigating.