Seven top Health IT certifications

Now more than ever, the intersection of health care and IT (generally referred to as "Health IT") offers an alluring niche for an IT career. IT pros are urgently needed to surf the leading edge of a tidal wave of e-health data. They implement and support electronic health records (EHR), write the software that facilitates health care information exchange (HIE) between providers, create health care consumer portals, and generally manage and protect the voluminous flow of potentially sensitive personal details.

There's such a great need for qualified HIT people that U.S. government officials sponsored a Health IT workforce development program incorporating professional certifications. IT industry and health care-related organizations are busy working up relevant certifications as well. If you're looking to capitalize on the Health IT boom, there's a good chance one (or more) of these credentials can help you do so. To help you pick the right one, GoCertify has tracked down and explored available HIT certification programs. Here are our top picks:

CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician

This is a foundation-level certification that covers Health IT knowledge at the macro level rather than focusing on a specific job role. It's intended for individuals who implement, deploy and support EHR and other Health IT systems. To earn it, you'll have to understand things like medical practice workflow and operations, regulatory requirements, and data security — in addition to the tech side of configuring and operating HIT systems. This isn't as well-known as some of CompTIA's other certs, so it's not mentioned specifically in many job postings. It's a solid all-round HIT credential to have on your resume, however, and it's also valuable as a blueprint for learning what you need to know to work on HIT projects.

Certified Professional in Health Information Technology (CPHIT)

One of the more recognized certifications on this list (you'll find it mentioned in some job listings), CPHIT is a broad-based credential covering general HIT knowledge. It's offered by the aptly named organization Health IT Certification. CPHIT is similar in scope to CompTIA's Healthcare IT Technician, but it has a more established presence in the marketplace. It's also more costly to earn, with the exam costing $495, as opposed to $106 for CompTIA's credential. The higher recognition level this cert has in the marketplace, however, may well be worth the extra dough.

Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist (CHTS)

Operated by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the CHTS program consists of six certification tracks targeting specific HIT job roles. The HIT Pro program sponsored by the United States was replaced by this one in July 2013, and the tracks are exactly the same. The most relevant to IT Pros (as opposed to clinical staff) are:

  • CHTS: Implementation Manager
  • CHTS: Implementation Support Specialist
  • CHTS: Technical/Software Support Staff
  • CHTS: Trainer

CHTS doesn't benefit from much name recognition yet, and the name change from HIT Pro definitely won't help in that regard. On the other hand, the CHTS program is bolstered by participation of the community college system in training candidates, which should translate to increased acceptance and recognition of this credential. If you already have or wish to fulfill one of these specific job roles, and in particular if you're looking for affordable HIT training via a community college program, CHTS is a good option.

Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS)

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) developed this entry-level HIT certification for individuals new to Health IT. It requires less technical expertise than other foundation-level Health IT certs, and places more emphasis on the health care practice side of HIM. Candidates with little technical background wishing to transition into a Health IT role may find this a more accessible credential.

Certified Professional in Health Information Exchange (CPHIE)

Another credential offered by Health IT Certification, CPHIE, is a specialized HIT certification focused on the development and use of health information exchanges. This certification is most useful as an additional certification for someone who already holds one of the more broadly-based HIT credentials and is looking for a next step. With this in hand, you'll be a strong candidate for consulting and in-house positions related to setting up and managing HIE systems.

Certified Health Informatics Systems Professional (CHISP)

One of several certifications offered by the American Society of Health Informatics Managers (ASHIM), the CHISP is another foundation-level technical certification that covers core competencies at the intersection of IT and the practice of health care. It's most suitable for EHR implementation specialists, developers who work on clinical software, and practice consultants.

Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS)

CPHIMS is an advanced certification for senior technical managers involved in Health IT. It's the "big brother" certification to the HIMSS entry-level CAHIMS. Candidates must meet education requirements (bachelors or graduate degree) and have work experience in health care, in addition to passing the exam. This credential is most suited for Health IT project managers, CTOs, consultants and technical people seeking management roles.

HIT vs. HIM Certifications

The above list isn't exhaustive; it represents what we've identified as the best options for an IT pro seeking HIT certification. When choosing a health care IT certification, a key factor to keep in mind is the distinction between HIT (health care information technology) and HIM (health care information management). HIT refers to the technology framework used to manage health care information, including hardware, software and telecommunications technology. HIM focuses more on operations management of health care information, with greater emphasis on acquiring, analyzing, and protecting health care data. Health care IT Certifications typically cater to one side or the other, though there is frequently a bit of overlap. For additional resources related to health IT technology and a career therein, check out HealthIT.gov.

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About the Author

Anne Martinez is a certification industry veteran and the founder of GoCertify.com. She has been observing the industry and writing about IT certification since 1998.