Healthcare IT Certifications: Do You Need One?
The healthcare industry’s transition from paper-based records and legacy computer systems to modern electronic health records (EHR) is creating new opportunities for vendors and channel partners alike. Recognizing the emerging trend, some organizations are even developing certifications around healthcare IT skills and providing training and exams for EHR and other healthcare technology. However, the certifications available are still flying fairly low on the radar and there’s a question mark hanging over the need for such certifications.
And it depends on who you ask. For instance, CompTIA is developing just such a certification, and representatives at that organization believe it will help individuals and solution providers stand out from the crowd that is trying to usher physicians into a new technological era.
However David Foote co-founder, chief research officer and CEO of Foote Partners, which tracks more than 200 IT certifications and credentials, doesn't see the need for such a certification. Foote Partners isn’t yet tracking any IT certifications specifically related to healthcare, he told Channel Insider.
"It’s very interesting to me that somebody would want to do that. I’m not aware of many certifications that are attached to industries rather than technologies or particular solutions," Foote said.
Foote noted that he is aware of and follows organizations such as Epic Systems that specialize in EHR and healthcare IT deployments, but even vendor-specific certifications haven’t appeared there yet. Most IT certifications in the healthcare industry are the traditional ones from the likes of Microsoft, Cisco Systems and other IT vendors that sell heavily into the healthcare space, but those certifications are the same ones being attained by IT professionals throughout the IT workforce.
Although Foote noted there is a demand for IT professionals with EHR skills and experience, he’s not seeing a demand for certifications in the area. In fact, Foote Partners’ research indicates a decreasing interest in certifications overall, with average salaries based on certifications continuing on a downward trend.
"You don’t need to be certified to demonstrate your knowledge in any one area. You don’t have to be certified. In fact, the world has moved away from certifications to some degree over the last three to four years," Foote said.
With economic recovery dollars available from the government, though, some organizations are seeing an opportunity for IT professionals with health IT skills to stand out from the crowd. One of those organizations is CompTIA (www.comptia.org), which is currently developing the CompTIA Healthcare IT for Electronic Health Records program and certification.
In January, CompTIA announced it was looking for EHR subject matter experts to help develop a health IT certification, but the concept for the certification actually started to take shape in 2009 following the Economic Recovery Act’s introduction. According to Gretchen Koch, senior director of workforce development programs at CompTIA, there was an expectation that the health IT technician field would experience growth of between 50,000 and 200,000 new jobs. The new EHR systems would have to be planned, deployed and then maintained, so the jobs also would not be going away.
CompTIA is a strong supporter of education and certifications (its own and vendor-specific ones), and so it’s not surprising the association began working towards creating a healthcare IT credential. The certification will go through its next review between March 14 and 18, and CompTIA expects to launch the certification program later this year.
"It’s very important for the successful transition. It’s very important for the doctors, who if they don’t make the transition, will be penalized in terms of the amount of money they get back from the government for Medicare and Medicaid. It’s very important for the health information exchanges that the country is looking to set up in order to make healthcare more effective, but also to just cut the costs of healthcare," Koch said.
The transition of medical records from paper to digital format requires specialized knowledge and skills, and a certification can prove to employers or clients that a technician has the appropriate skills, she said.
"There have been certificates in health IT from the healthcare side for a long time. Organizations like AHIMA and HIMSS have been putting out health IT credentials from the healthcare side for quite some time. As far as I know, CompTIA’s going to be one of the first to do it from the IT side of health," Koch said.
According to Koch, the proper integration of EHR data and systems is all about providing meaningful use for doctors and other medical personnel. When healthcare professionals are looking for an integrator who can develop the systems in an appropriate way, certifications will enable them to identify integrators who have been trained and know how to do it.