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5 Best Healthcare IT Certifications 2018

5 Best Healthcare IT Certifications 2018
Credit: SUWIT NGAOKAEW/Shutterstock

Healthcare IT continues to be on the 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 entire economy. Going forward, healthcare spending is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 5.6 percent annually per capita. Thus, there will still 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. In addition, there is a handful of IT organizations, with IT professionals at the helm, that 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 obviously the most desirable to employers as evidenced by their huge numbers as compared to other certifications.

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn Jobs

Linkup.com

Total

CAHIMS/CPHIMS (HIMSS)

52

54

40

27

173

CHTS (AHIMA)

11

11

17

0

39

HCISSP (ISC)2

54

57

56

33

200

RHIA (AHIMA)*

1,899

2,160

2,074

1,060

7,193

RHIT (AHIMA)

2,184

2,572

2,387

1,190

8,333

* RHIA results include many employers hiring for coding positions that list the RHIA as a preferred certification.

Salary expectations within IT healthcare vary depending on the job role. For example, SimplyHired reports average salaries for IT professionals working as healthcare technicians, healthcare help desk specialists or help desk technicians as being in the mid-30s with highs in the upper 50s and low 60s. Those engaged in desktop support roles can expect to earn between $35,710 and $59,202. Healthcare IT professionals engaged in management roles command the highest salaries, with reported average earnings of almost $75,000 that top out near $127,000.

HIMSS, or the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is a nonprofit organization with mission of improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare through information technology (IT) systems.

Its parent organization, HIMSS WorldWide, provides leadership, education and conferences for its members, which include more than 64,000 individuals (most of which work in healthcare), 640 corporations and 450 nonprofits. HIMSS sponsors National Health IT Week and oversees the Electronic Health Records Association.

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 mid-level 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. In addition, 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, in addition to recalling facts.

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. Canadian CPHIMS credential holders (CPHIMS-CA) are required to earn an additional 15 CEs above and beyond the 45 CEs that CPHIMs 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, both of which could become highly popular over the next few years.

Certification Name

Certified Associate in Healthcare Information & Management Systems (CAHIMS)
Certified Professional in Healthcare Information & Management Systems (CPHIMS)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

CAHIMS: High school diploma or equivalent

CPHIMS: Bachelor's degree or global equivalent, plus five years of IS management experience (three years in healthcare), or graduate degree or equivalent plus three years of IS management experience (two years in healthcare).

Credentials are valid for three years. Must pass current exam or obtain 45 CEs to recertify (25 CEs must be from HIMSS or HIMSS-approved provider activities) and pay renewal fees.

CAHIMS renewal: $105 members; $155 non-members

CPHIMS renewal: $185 members; $260 non-members

Number of Exams

One exam per each certification

Cost per Exam

CAHIMS Exam: $145 organizational affiliate member; $185 HIMSS national member; $235 non-member (115 questions, two hours)
CPHIMS Exam: $280 organizational affiliate member, $310 HIMSS national member; $390 non-member (115 questions, two hours)

HIMSS membership: $199 (individuals). Members can invite others to join for free. Student, online and chapter memberships also available.

Exams administered by Prometric.

URL

www.himss.org/health-it-certification?navItemNumber=17564

Self-Study Materials

HIMSS maintains a list of free and fee-based study materials, including a CAHIMS Candidate Handbook and CPHIMS Candidate Handbook. Candidate Handbooks contains links to exam content outline, Competency Gap Assessment, Course Learning Plan, recommended text, online resources, and supplementary materials. Practice exams are available for purchase for $65 (member)/$85 (non-member). Members receive discounts on all learning materials.

AHIMA, the American Health Information Management Association, which has more than 103,000 members, offers a reasonably complete, multi-tiered healthcare IT certification program. Three AHIMA certifications are featured in this article – the Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist (CHTS), 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 competency area. The six competency areas include:

  • 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 information technology 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/Soft3ware 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.

Certification Name

Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist (CHTS)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

No prerequisites

Recommended:

Six months training (workforce development or other non-degree program) or current relative experience

Number of Exams

One exam per competency area (125 questions, three hours to complete)

Cost per Exam

$299 for initial CHTS exam; retakes and additional CHTS competency exams $199 each

Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

http://www.ahima.org/certification/chts

Self-Study Materials

AHIMA HIM Body of Knowledge

Review the CHTS Candidate Guide for exam blueprint and other related information.

The (ISC)² HCISPP is geared toward medical records supervisors, compliance officers, information technology/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.

The current HCISPP CBK domains are:

  • 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).

Certification Name

HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP)

Prerequisite & Required Courses

Two years full time, paid experience in one of the six HCISPP CBK domains (must include privacy, compliance, and security). Note: One year of experience must be in the health care industry.

Formal training recommended. Available in a three- and four-day classroom or live online formats. Cost is between $1,495 (live online) and $2,995, depending on vendor. Candidates agree to abide by the (ISC)² Code of Ethics.

Number of Exams

One exam (three hours, 125 multiple-choice questions, 700 out of 1,000 points required to pass)

Cost per Exam

$349. Exams administered by Pearson VUE. Prices may vary by geography.

URL

www.isc2.org/hcispp/default.aspx

Self-Study Materials

(ISC)² provides a free exam outline, free interactive flashcards and the Official (ISC)² Guide to the HCISPP (available in hardcover, iTunes and Kindle), as well as official training.

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 to 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 & Security
  • Domain 3: Informatics, Analytics & 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 $150 recertification fee. Annual membership fees also apply.

AHIMA is rolling out a beta exam on January 2, 2018. The beta test period will run approximately 12 to 24 weeks. Interested candidates should check the website frequently for exam or other curriculum updates that may be implemented because of the beta testing.

Certification Name

Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Bachelor's degree (or higher) from a Health Information Management (HIM) program accredited by CAHIIM, or

Graduate from an HIM program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA has a reciprocity agreement (primarily Canada and the EU at present) or

Be an RHIT and meet the HIMR Proviso conditions approved by CCHIIM. Application, including college or university transcripts, required.  $75 application processing fee.

Number of Exams

One exam: 180 questions (20 un-scored pretest questions), four hours

Cost per Exam

$217.55 premium member; $229 members; $299 non-members. Exams administered by Pearson VUE. AHIMA authorization required to register. Must test within a four-month period following receipt of ATT letter.

URL

www.ahima.org/certification/rhia.aspx

Self-Study Materials

AHIMA offers an Exam Content Outline and an Exam Content Outline Crosswalk as well as a comprehensive list of recommended resourcesPractice exams are available for $47.49 premier member; $49.99 member; $59.99 non-member.

Another popular certification from AHIMA is its Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. RHIT certification holders are found in a variety of business related to healthcare, including hospitals, nursing homes, private care, home healthcare and others. 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 seven domain knowledge areas:

  • Domain 1: Data Analysis & Management
  • Domain 2: Coding
  • Domain 3: Compliance
  • Domain 4: Information Technology
  • Domain 5: Quality
  • Domain 6: Legal
  • Domain 7: Revenue Cycle

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've 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 $150 recertification fee to and maintain an annual membership.

As with the RHIA certification, AHIMA begins a beta test of a new RHIT exam on Jan. 2, 2018. The beta test period will last 12 to 24 weeks.

Certification Name

Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Associate's degree from an HIM program accredited by CAHIIM, or graduate from an HIM program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA has a reciprocity agreement (primarily Canada and the EU at present). Application, including college or university transcripts, required.

Note: Early testing permitted in limited circumstances. See RHIT website for details.

Number of Exams

One exam: 150 questions multiple-choice questions (20 unscored pretest questions), 3.5 hours

Cost per Exam

$217.55 premium member; $229 members; $299 non-members. Exams administered by Pearson VUE. AHIMA authorization required to register.

URL

http://www.ahima.org/certification/RHIT

Self-Study Materials

AHIMA maintains a list of exam prep materials, which includes links to exam preparation resources, sample questions, the content outline and more. Prep courses for each exam domain are available from AHIMA for $37.05 premier member, $39 member and $49 for non-member.

AHIMA figures prominently in this article – netting three of the top five slots – but the organization offers several other healthcare-related credentials, too. These include the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA), Certified Professional in Health Informatics (CPHI) and several coding and specialty credentials.

Missing from our top five list this year is the Certified Professional in Health Information Technology (CPHIT) credential from Health IT Certification, LLC. The CPHIT was designed for healthcare professionals who plan, select, implement and manage healthcare information technology for their organizations. All Health IT Certification credentials were transferred to HIMSS in 2016 and will no longer be maintained as of Dec. 31, 2018.

Numerous universities with medical schools offer healthcare IT certificate programs, including the University of ConnecticutDrexel UniversityJohns Hopkins University, the University of Texas and many more. These types of programs are generally well worth investigating.