Healthcare IT Certifications

Which Certifications Will Get You Hired in this Growing Field?

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Healthcare IT is in need of qualified professionals. There are many workers seeking jobs in healthcare IT, but many do not have the skills or certifications needed.

In addition to the skills and experience, which healthcare IT certifications are employers seeking in new hires for their healthcare IT departments? A healthcare IT executive and search expert, Gwen Darling, tells us why in this comprehensive interview.

Gwen Darling is a search executive specializing in Healthcare IT recruitment. She is the CEO of Healthcare IT Central, the founding editor of Healthcare IT Today, and a careers blogger for Healthcare Informatics magazine. In this Q&A, Ms. Darling shares her specialized knowledge and experience in the healthcare IT field.

Which healthcare it certifications are most marketable and in greatest demand?

Gwen Darling: First, a little background into why healthcare IT professionals are in such demand - the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was signed into law on February 17, 2009, to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology.

Once the conversions to electronic health records are complete, these new systems will require professionals to maintain, upgrade, integrate, etc., not to mention the data management and warehousing end of the spectrum, so the need will continue for the foreseeable future - it's a fantastic time to be or become a part of this industry!

So, as far as certifications go - the number one question I receive is regarding how to become Epic certified. Epic Systems, for those who may not know, is the leading EMR vendor software (based on market share), and Epic-certified professionals are in hot demand. If you're currently an Epic-certified professional, you can pretty much be guaranteed your choice of consulting assignments for as long as you desire.

The problem is, however, that to become Epic certified you must either first be hired by a hospital who is willing to sponsor your training, or, work for Epic Systems directly. Hospitals, under the gun to meet the aforementioned deadlines, are reluctant to hire non-certified professionals, and working for Epic corporate usually requires a move to Madison, Wisconsin, so many professionals who are otherwise great candidates are finding these obstacles insurmountable and quite frustrating.

The good news is that Epic-certified professionals are only one piece of the healthcare IT workforce - there are many alternative approaches to becoming a competitive, contributing, sought-after candidate with a long and lucrative career in HIT. A quick look at the current opportunities on Healthcare IT Central (HITC) shows a wide variety of additional roles with required or preferred certifications that are a bit less elusive to earn and available online - which is great for busy professionals who can't leave their current posts for a resident education curriculum.

How should a prospective healthcare IT job seeker decide upon which certification(s) to obtain, and how should he or she decide which program or school is best to attend for this training?

Gwen Darling: Deciding which certification(s) to earn depends on what kind of work you'd like to ultimately be doing, but here's a brief overview of three that I recommend and feel are worth the investment:

Project Management Professional (PMP) - In the last few months, I've been seeing a significant increase in Project Management roles, which require the PMP certification. It used to be a real chore (and quite expensive) to wade through this certification, but thankfully, there's now a very affordable, online version of the PMP prep course that can be completed in 57 hours. The course is modular, so you can knock it out in chunks at your convenience. The PMP certification is designed for experienced professionals and is recognized not just in HIT, but in all industries.

Certified HIPAA Security Professional (CHSP) - With numerous HIPAA regulations (and most likely more to come), it's critical that most, if not all, healthcare IT professionals know their way around HIPAA.

The CHSP Certification provides comprehensive training in HIPAA covering every aspect of HIPAA compliance, including the Privacy and Security rules, regulatory changes brought by the HITECH Act and Omnibus Final Rule of 2013, requirements for business associates, and more. 4Medapproved offers a quick 10-hour online course that I recommend to any healthcare professionals who are looking for an easy way to distinguish their resume' from the competition - this is the kind of ancillary training that employers value and appreciate.

Certified EHR Management Professional (CEMP) The CEMP certification is designed to deliver a depth of understanding for consultants, project and practice managers regarding EHR, electronic workflow and the steps required to best facilitate EHR implementation and post-implementation management. In my opinion, this certification is an excellent bridge for those who are having difficulty landing that first HIT position, because students engage in hands-on workflow exercises utilizing a certified EHR application. The hands-on EHR exercises are designed to teach students the fundamentals of electronic medical record workflow. The live, certified EHR solution creates a working environment similar in design to most of the major certified products on the market-allowing for a flexible learning experience uniquely applicable to multiple platforms and medical workplaces. While this certification does not solve the "We'll only hire Epic-certified professionals," conundrum, it does provide hands-on experience that may very well be the tipping point for getting your foot in the door.

As the Guide to Health Careers, I often receive inquiries from job seekers who are frustrated with the job market in healthcare IT. It seems they hear about all these openings in healthcare IT, but then have difficulty finding a job. Why is this happening?

Gwen Darling: In April of 2010, the government (specifically the HHS) announced awards totaling $84 million to 16 universities and junior colleges to help support the training and development of more than 50,000 new healthcare IT professionals. Those of us who are involved with workforce development were pretty excited about this allocation of resources, as were the thousands of students who enrolled in the programs who believed a lucrative career in HIT would be waiting for them upon graduation.

Unfortunately that just has not been the case for many graduates. Hospitals, under the looming "meaningful use" deadlines, are not willing and/or able to hire a crop of inexperienced professionals who do not have direct experience working with a certified EHR software system, and the graduates cannot get experience with an EHR without first getting hired by the hospitals. It's a very frustrating catch-22 situation that resulted in a lot of heartache and confusion about what to do next. Fortunately, great strides are being made by a handful of private companies to help bridge that gap between education and employment, and I'm starting to see some of the graduates land jobs, by adding a few key certifications to their resume. This approach works well for professionals who are hoping to transition into HIT from another industry, as well.