Certification Qualifies Expertise in Health Care IT Systems

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Health care is arguably the most data-intensive industry in the world, with providers relying on millions of pieces of information to assess, diagnose and treat patients across the continuum of care. For that reason, health care IT (HIT) and management systems professionals — unlike their brethren in more traditional IT roles — need to not only have a firm grasp of the technology environment and the entire systems life cycle, but also the ins and outs of the health care environment.

The rapid growth of health care information and management systems needs around the globe, along with President Bush’s goal for widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by 2014, has fueled greater demand for qualified HIT and management systems professionals, as well as a way to certify their levels of proficiency.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recognizes this need to codify, promote and validate a body of knowledge around health care information and management systems. In 2002, it launched a credentialing
process that designates a qualified candidate as a Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS).

The CPHIMS program establishes standards for professional practice; creates a fair, valid and reliable examination process for professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and skills; and grants certification to those who meet the program’s standards.

CPHIMS is intended for professionals responsible for planning, selecting, implementing, using and managing HIT and management systems. This includes CEOs, CIOs, COOs and other senior executives, as well as industry specialists such as directors, senior managers, management engineers, information systems technical staff, physicians, nurses, consultants, attorneys, financial advisers, technology vendors, academics and students.

“Holding the CPHIMS, like other credentials, sets a baseline that fellow professionals understand,” said Jonathan D. Goldsmith, CPHIMS, FACHE, senior consultant at the International Bar Association. “Some may say a credential does not represent potential for future work, which is often true. However, it does represent a level of knowledge and understanding that immediately separates the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots,’ in first impressions and possibly later.”

Benefits of CPHIMS

The value of the credential is indisputable from the perspectives of multiple stakeholders. For HIT and management systems professionals, it conveys that their knowledge and expertise have been validated by a reliable third party, thus providing enhanced opportunities in the marketplace. For health care organizations, it assures their staffs possess the ability to effectively select, design, implement and manage HIT and management systems solutions and is a factor in recruitment and retention.

“CPHIMS is more than just an acronym after my name,” said Ali R. Birjandi, MBA, MHA, CPHIMS, vice president of operational performance improvement at ProMedica Health System in Toledo, Ohio. “It is a designation that I have the technical knowledge and the required experience to use it. The largest causes of technology-project failures have not been the technology, but with the experience of the people leading the change. My CPHIMS Certification lets others know that when I talk about new technology, I speak from a position of both knowledge and experience.”

It also is used in professional development plans and is a requirement for promotion in related health care roles in the U.S. military. Edward T. Wright, MA, CPHIMS — deputy CIO and chief of customer support and clinical operations at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. — said the Army allowed CPHIMS to be entered into the military’s official record as testimony to its commitment to HIMSS.

“The Army values CPHIMS as a standard because it is a statement of demonstration of knowledge in the field of information and management systems in the health care arena,” Wright said.

CPHIMS became one of the few Air Force Medical Service Corps (MSC) board-certified credentials in the early 2000s for medical administrators working in areas such as logistics, resource management, IT, readiness, patient administration and other health care divisions.

Air Force MSC Lt. Col. Michael H. Brummett, CIO at the Wilford Hall Medical Center in Texas, said earning a certification was valuable because it verified broad-based knowledge in HIT and management systems rather than a specific niche.

“Being certified further enhanced the chances of getting to where I am today, as well as where I will be after the Air Force,” Brummett explained. “It helped me employ my skills in a different angle and under a different light because, in the military, there are specified ways of business; they don’t directly correlate to what’s happening in civilian hospital settings. The preparation for the certification educated me to terms and concepts I was unfamiliar with and allowed me to acclimate myself with the topics and processes of civilian organizations.”

Vendors and consultants also recognize the value of the credential: It indicates they understand their clients’ environments and needs and can address them appropriately. Providers and patients also benefit since the solutions are implemented by professionals and in a manner that optimizes clinician adoption and patient safety and outcomes.

“As a physician working in an information systems department, I face a constant battle to prove my technical knowledge,” explained Donald L. Levick, M.D., MBA, CPHIMS. Levick works in Physician Liaison Information Services at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa. “Achieving CPHIMS certification has significantly improved my knowledge base and has shown my colleagues that I am committed to education regarding the field. Certification helps me sit at the same table as the information systems directors and others in the department.”

Exam Eligibility and Details

HIMSS has updated its CPHIMS exam to more accurately reflect current professional practice and incorporate the global HIT and management systems perspective. By expanding the credential internationally, greater opportunities are created for professionals not only to enhance their potential, but to bring a standardized and validated set of skills and knowledge to improving health outcomes and operational efficiencies around the world.

This process begins with a job analysis. Centering on tasks related to HIT and management systems professionals’ work, a survey is sent out globally to individuals representing a broad range of industry audiences. Both individuals new to the profession and those with experience are surveyed.

Content in the updated CPHIMS exam focuses on the following topics: general health care and technology environments; systems analysis; design; selection, implementation, support and maintenance; testing and evaluation; privacy and security; and administration, leadership and management. These topics mirror the knowledge, skills and abilities required for HIT and management systems professionals to perform optimally on the job.

To be eligible for the CPHIMS examination, a candidate must fulfill one of the following requirements for education and work experience: a baccalaureate degree, plus five years of associated information and management systems experience, with three in health care, or graduate degree, plus three years of associated information and management systems experience, with two in health care. Associated information and management systems experience includes experience in the following functional areas: administration and management, clinical information systems, e-health, information systems or management engineering.

The CPHIMS exam is administered at AMP Assessment Centers throughout the world. A list of centers is available at www.himss.org/getcertified. The exam is administered by appointment only Monday through Saturday on a first-come, first-serve basis. In addition, organizations, health care facilities and other groups may schedule a special on-site, group administration of the exam.

The CPHIMS Certification is governed by the CPHIMS Technical Committee, a HIMSS committee of individuals with subject matter expertise in the content tested on the examination. This committee is responsible for assuring certification meets the high standards required for the profession and is charged with setting general standards for the program, developing examination specifications, constructing new editions of the examination and establishing passing standards.

CPHIMS Study Tools

Preparing for Success in Healthcare Information and Management Systems: The CPHIMS Review CD-ROM

This CD-ROM — in a structured, yet self-paced multimedia format — utilizes a PowerPoint program with audio support and printable handouts. End users can sample multiple-choice questions at the end of each chapter to help monitor learning.

Preparing for Success in Healthcare Information and Management Systems: The CPHIMS Review Guide

This textbook is the perfect study partner. CPHIMS candidates can challenge themselves with sample multiple-choice questions — different from the CD-ROM — for each chapter. A glossary of acronyms also is included.

In addition to serving as valuable study tools, the CD and textbook are invaluable for those wanting the most current and comprehensive overview in health care information and management systems. Candidates can choose either the multimedia or the textbook format to meet their learning needs.

The CPHIMS Self-Assessment Exam (SAE)

This helpful online tool helps simulate the CPHIMS Exam in format and content and offers useful feedback to future test-takers. A rationale for correct and incorrect responses and feedback reports identify test-takers’ strengths and improvement areas.

– Matthew Grob


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