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Taking Your IT Career into the Healthcare World, 2014 Edition

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Looking for the next big thing in IT to start or redirect your career? New regulations in the American health care system mean new IT demands for electronic patient records and medical information. Because of the specialization of the field, HITECH has designed new certification exams to meet the industry’s needs. In this article, learn about the new certs and get your foot in the door of Healthcare IT.

The Healthcare IT (HIT) field is booming with development in technology and migration from paper records to electronic records. It is one of the fastest growing fields in IT today. Jobs are being created constantly, and the market is still trying to meet the demands.

Why is this field growing so quickly? The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The HITECH Act regulates how HIT computer systems interact with third parties and requires healthcare facilities to move toward electronic solutions to store patient data and to no longer use paper forms and charts for retaining patient records. Its purpose is to promote the meaningful use of technology in healthcare so that technology ultimately results in improved healthcare for the patient. (More information can be found about the HITECH Act at www.hhs.gov.)

This push into HIT increases the job demand for a better-trained workforce— from the nurse using the computer in a surgery suite to the IT guy in the server room; everyone is affected. By earning CompTIA’s HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician certification, you will demonstrate to employers that you have the basic knowledge needed to help meet these growing IT demands in the healthcare field.

What Are the HITECH-created HIMSS Certs?

With the increasing demand to migrate to the electronic patient records, HITECH designed the HIMSS certs to aid in providing a trained workforce for implementing the new HIM (healthcare information management) information systems. These certification areas include:

  • Practice workflow and information management redesign specialists
  • Clinician/practitioner consultants
  • Implementation support specialists
  • Implementation managers
  • Technical/software support specialists
  • Trainers

While these jobs are growing, they are not necessarily designed to be ongoing. However, somebody is going to have to maintain these systems!

What Is the CompTIA HIT-001 Healthcare Technician Cert?

The HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician certification by CompTIA focuses on verifying the training of a person for two of these jobs: implementation support specialists and technical/software support. This means that people who have an IT background with specialized training will be best suitable in the healthcare field. This could be a networking specialist, a security specialist, a specialist for the specific brand of information systems being used at that hospital, or many other IT roles who want to work in the healthcare environment.

What Is the Difference?

The HIMSS certs are more project-based, and those jobs will move from hospital to hospital as the new information systems are installed. The CompTIA HIT-001 cert is mostly designed for the back-end, ongoing support of the systems that are being installed now as well as all the other information systems installed at the healthcare facilities, such as the lab IS, radiology IS, or pharmacy IS.

Here’s another confusion and difference. There are other job descriptions that are labeled “HIT” when really they are HIM IT, which is the medical records department. These are the specific information systems that the HIMSS certs are targeting. These are people who have been trained in managing medical records (paper or electronic). The other “HIT” is the IT department in a healthcare facility. These are the people who are technical people who maintain or install the computers, printers, peripheral devices, networks, servers, etc. CompTIA’s HIT cert is designed for these jobs. While there is a little bit of crossover, these two job descriptions are not the same.

Should a Student Go for the HIMSS Certs or the CompTIA HIT cert?

There has been some confusion about whether IT students should study for CompTIA’s HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician exam or study for the government-created HIMSS exams. Let’s clarify this. It really depends on what type of background the student has, and what type of job the student wants. Students with a medical background will likely be better fit for the HIMSS certs, while IT students are better fit for CompTIA’s HIT cert.

The HIT-001 exam offered by CompTIA is specifically targeting IT students who want to prepare for jobs working back-end support in hospitals and medical offices in long-term positions.

The HIMSS exams created by HITECH specifically to prepare a workforce for the EHR/EMR migrations that are spreading across the nation. These workers are trainers, project managers, and implementation specialists. A few of these people will have an IT background, but not most. These are front-end support training healthcare workers how to use the system. These are also designed for temporary positions that last as long as a project, or moving jobs that move from project to project.

Is This Healthcare or IT?

It’s an honest question that many are struggling to decide. This is particularly difficult for an instructor who is trying to figure out where this certification belongs in a curriculum. My experience demonstrates that this is definitely a technology certification. Here are a few reasons why I know this an IT job in a healthcare world:

  • Look at the objectives. You can download the objectives for the exam at http://certification.comptia.org. More than half the exam verifies IT skills, and the rest of the exam confirms that IT people know how to relate to the healthcare world. The five domains of the exam are:
  • Domain

    Percentage of exam

    Regulatory requirements

    13%

    Organizational behavior

    15%

    IT operations

    26%

    Medical business operations

    25%

    Security

    21%

  • When CompTIA created the HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician certification, it intended the test taker to already have earned the A+ certification or have 500+ hours of hands-on IT technical experience. The A+ exam tests the following skills:
    • Fundamentals of computer technology
    • Installation and configuration of PCs, laptops, and related hardware
    • Basic networking
    • Skills required to install and configure PC operating systems
    • Configure common features (such as network connectivity and email) for mobile operating systems Android and Apple iOS
  • Look at the job applicants. When a job opening is placed for an HIT technician, the job applicants are IT people. Some, if not most, of these applicants have little to no healthcare knowledge. The few healthcare workers who switched from healthcare to IT are extremely valuable because they can explain to the rest of us IT folks about how the technology we are designing and supporting affect the end user.

Other IT Certifications

Earning other certifications can help you to achieve your goal of working in healthcare IT. The HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician certification covers many security concepts, but the CompTIA Security+ certification demonstrates deeper knowledge in:

  • Network security
  • Compliance and operational security
  • Threats and vulnerabilities
  • Application, data, and host security
  • Access control and identity management
  • Cryptography

The CompTIA Network+ certification is helpful, also. While the HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician certification covers many networking concepts, the Network+ certification demonstrates deeper knowledge in:

  • Network technologies
  • Installation and configuration
  • Media and topologies
  • Network management
  • Network security

Summary

The HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician certification establishes that you, as a job applicant for a new job or promotion, have the knowledge and skill set needed to be an IT technician in a healthcare environment. The need to meet this job market demand continues to grow as healthcare facilities seek to meet HITECH Act requirements of meaningful use of HIT technology. To help you prepare for an IT job in a healthcare world, earn your certifications in A+, HIT-001 Healthcare IT Technician, Security+, and Network+.

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