The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act set into action a group of programs to build the foundation of a modernized, interconnected and vastly improved system of health care delivery for every American. As a result of this federal mandate, the entire health care system is rapidly transitioning to electronic health records (EHRs). And as we transition to this new way of health care delivery, there is an urgent and increased need for skilled health IT (HIT) specialists to be properly trained and equipped to become meaningful users of EHRs.
To address this need, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently created the Community College Consortia to Educate Health IT Professionals in Health Care Program. In other words, the federal government (through ONC) is now providing funding for higher education institutions to offer courses for HIT Pro certification and is also offering students full reimbursement with a passing grade. This new program is separate from biased EMR vendor certifications available in the marketplace and differs in the fact that the focus is on professionals who have experience in health care.
As a System Security Specialist and after spending the past six years in HIT, I investigated the HIT Pro certification program and have the following thoughts to share.
Let’s first talk about the program itself. The Community College Consortia is comprised of 82 community colleges representing all 50 states. The courses are six months or less and are available on-campus or online so HIT professionals are able to enroll at a local college or participate in the training at a college of choice that provides the class online.
The programs are designed for professionals with an IT or healthcare background and are focused toward one of six roles in HIT:
1. Practice workflow and information management redesign specialists
2. Clinician/practitioner consultants
3. Implementation support specialists
4. Implementation managers
5. Technical/software support staff
The cost of a course at a Community College in the Consortia is around $360 (no residency requirements) with full reimbursement paid to the student after passing. Plus, you will receive a free HIT Pro certification voucher worth $300 to become certified. The Certification is offered at one of Pearson Vue’s 230 nationwide testing centers. The exam is 125 multiple choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours. Test results are typically available within four to six weeks.
Although anyone can take the certification online with or without course work, I highly recommend taking the course first prior to taking the certification test blindly. Especially if you do not currently have a strong IT background and good grasp on HIT terminology. There are few experts in this field that could pass the certification without prior training within the Community College Consortia. In fact, the pass rate among all six roles averages between 60 and 76 percent.
Because the certification and course work is so new, there is very little if any material (training manuals, study guides, etc.) available to help study or prepare for the exam outside of course work. I did find a few items that may be of help from Amazon and CompTIA, but if youwant to pass the exam and become certified, my advice is to take the course.
Who should get certified?
According to ONC, as the nation moves toward a more technologically advanced healthcare system, providers are going to need highly skilled HIT experts to support the adoption and meaningful use of EHRs. The goal of the HIT Pro certification is to appropriately train HIT professionals to help providers implement EHRs to improve health care quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness.Stating this, all interested students must have appropriate prerequisite training and experience (check the ONC website for criteria). In other words, this is not a certification just anyone can or should work toward.In my opinion, the course and certification is really only for folks generally interested in EHR/EMR work and serves as a good way to expand your experience and credentials in HIT. Keep in mind there are no metrics tied to meaningful use. The only real incentive to becomea certified HIT Pro is to simply be more informed and better equipped to help with the implementation of EHRs. And undoubtedly, along the way, it may be useful to advance one’s career within the health care system. If you pass it’s free so it only costs you the time commitment of course work and taking the exam.
So, the real question is: Do I think it’s worth the time commitment? I plan to take the course and work to become HIT Pro certified.