Inside the CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician Certification
The complex relationship between information technology and healthcare poses a unique challenge for the IT industry. On the surface, healthcare facilities experience the same common IT issues found in any enterprise: Printers go down, users forget passwords, workstations have hardware failures, and so on.
Healthcare-related IT, however, must also provide two mission-critical functions: error-free patient care, and patient information confidentiality. Any healthcare IT system that can impact the treatment of a patient must be managed with great care and attention. And all collected personal health information has to be heavily protected, while remaining readily available to healthcare professionals, sometimes at a moment's notice, in order to facilitate the critical treatment of a patient.
Managing electronic patient information is particularly important. This data is subject to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance and Accountability Act (HIPAA) signed into U.S. law in 1996. HIPAA established several requirements for the treatment and use of Protected Health Information (PHI).
This legislation was further developed by the passing of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (which is kind of a stretch to wind up with the acronym HITECH, but hey, no one ever said government is subtle).
Both HIPAA and HITECH established harsh civil and criminal penalties for healthcare professionals and institutions that violate provisions of the act, whether a violation is committed knowingly or unintentionally. These and other laws make maintaining perfect compliance a very important mandate for IT pros working in healthcare.
The role of healthcare IT technician requires the standard computing technology skill set, matched with the contextual knowledge required to meet the strict requirements found in professional healthcare environments. It was with this combination in mind that CompTIA created the Healthcare IT Technician certification.
A Certification Solution
The CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician (hereby abbreviated as HITT) certification builds off of the association's premier A+ computer technician credential by mixing in knowledge specific to the use of IT in the healthcare industry. This includes how to implement and support IT systems in healthcare facilities; understanding healthcare-specific terminology and practices; and, familiarity with regulatory requirements associated with electronic health record (EHR) systems.
CompTIA recommends that HITT candidates should be A+ certified, or have a minimum of 500 hours experience as a computer technician, with some experience in a professional healthcare environment. That said, there are no prerequisites for taking the HITT certification exam.
The HITT exam, which is currently only offered in English, consists of 75 multiple-choice questions, for which candidates have one hour to complete. The exam passing score is 650 on a 100-900 scale. Once earned, there are no ongoing education requirements or recertification rules for maintaining the HITT certification.
Here are the knowledge domains for CompTIA's HITT certification exam, with an approximation of how much exam content is devoted to each domain:
? Regulatory Requirements (13 percent)
? Organizational Behavior (15 percent)
? IT Operations (26 percent)
? Medical Business Operations (25 percent)
? Security (21 percent)
Regulatory Requirements covers the various regulations, laws, and governing organizations linked to the healthcare industry. This knowledge domain receives light coverage in the exam, and doesn't require a lawyer's depth of understanding of the industry.
Organizational Behavior looks at the structure of information handling and records keeping in healthcare facilities. Particular attention is given to both medical and IT job roles, who is responsible for what, and the differences between various healthcare facilities; for example, how a hospital operates compared to a nursing home.
IT Operations makes up just over a quarter of the exam. Much of the crossover information from the A+ body of knowledge appears in this category. Workstation and network fundamentals, including system troubleshooting skills, are required to correctly answer questions based in this exam domain.
Medical Business Operations also takes up a quarter of the exam questions. Knowledge of medical terminology, including common devices and departments, is essential here. Candidates will need a working knowledge of various medical interfaces, and HL7 in particular. HL7 is Health Level-7, a transport standard used to exchange information like patient records, lab records, and billing data between medical applications.
Security is a no-brainer knowledge domain for this type of exam, given the strict regulations and protocols that exist in the healthcare industry. Physical security, encryption, access control, and information disposal are some of the topics covered by questions in this category.
Wireless networking setup and security protocols are a recent point of emphasis in the healthcare IT security discussion. This is due to the slow early adoption of wireless networking technology in healthcare facilities, as professionals were concerned about possible interference with medical devices and other critical care systems.
This issue has largely been addressed, however, by newer Wi-Fi standards and more robust medical equipment. Wireless networks are now commonly found in healthcare environments — with the accompanying need for rock-solid security practices.
The appeal of CompTIA's HITT certification is its relevance to current healthcare IT departments. While computing technicians from other industries can be trained on the chief priorities and differences found in the healthcare industry, it's not a stretch to think that healthcare-based hiring managers prefer to see a credential linking healthcare knowledge and IT skills on a job candidate's resume.
If you're interested in learning more about the CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician certification, check out the HITT webpage on CompTIA's site.