Healthcare // Clinical Information Systems
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7/11/2012
01:58 PM
Paul Cerrato
Paul Cerrato
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How To Break Into Healthcare IT

University degrees and certificate training both are valuable, but you must think strategically when choosing between them.

11 Super Mobile Medical Apps
11 Super Mobile Medical Apps
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There's no end to the debate about the best way to break into healthcare information technology. One of the most contentious issues facing job candidates is the university degree versus certificate debate. Put another way: Are you more likely to land a position--and be better qualified to work in health IT--if you get a master's degree in the field or complete a shorter certification program?

Students I've spoken with who are enrolled in master's programs at major universities have many positive comments about what they've learned. But some also complain that there's too much theory and high-level conceptualization, and not enough hands on training.

With those concerns in mind, I recently spoke with Michael Shannon, a security specialist and IT consultant, who has done a lot of IT training, including course work for CBT Nuggets, which offers training programs to prepare people for certification exams in a variety of IT areas.

One of his latest projects is a program to prepare candidates for the CompTIA healthcare IT technician exam, which might help some newbies get their foot in the door. To pass the exam you must know IT basics, such the difference between XML and HTML, and understand acronyms such as DNS, DHCP, and FTP. But it also covers areas specific to healthcare, including healthcare security, medical business operations, and the long list of regulations that apply in this area.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

This training can help students handle sections of the HIT technician exam that cover ICD10--the latest medical billing coding system--and get up to speed on various types of clinical software, including EHRs, PACS, and CPOE. On the regulatory side, it familiarizes newcomers with HIPAA, Meaningful Use, and important acronyms such as ONC (Office of National Coordinator of Health IT), CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), and ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

In Shannon's view, "If I were a young person wanting to get into health IT, I would probably bypass the university system and try to get certification, do online training." That's not surprising from someone who teaches online training courses, but Shannon's rationale makes a certain amount of sense.

The university system can be pretty slow in adapting to the fast-paced, ever-changing tech world. It takes time to get a master curriculum approved and identify the best textbooks, Shannon pointed out. By the time you have all your ducks in a row, the technology has changed.

Certificate training programs, on the other hand, are more nimble and often take a modular approach, which lets instructors quickly replace outdated sections with new material. Getting school administrators to approve courses for an MS program feels a lot like turning an aircraft carrier around; certification training is more like starting a motorboat.

Of course, smaller programs aren't for everyone. Granted, a certificate program tends to be better for someone who needs to hit the ground running, letting them immediately start working on EHR implementations, whether as a consultant or part of an in-house deployment team. But a master's program, while it might take longer to complete, offers a broader scope, which is why it might be more suitable for managers who are involved with overseeing health IT but won't need to get involved with actual deployment.

There's no one path to success as a health IT professional. Training with firms such as TestOut, CBT Nuggets, CED Solutions, the American Society of Health Informatics Managers (ASHIM), or at a major university will only get you part of the way there.

Equally important are the right interviewing skills--usually a blend of self-confidence and humility. Likewise, job candidates must not only keep abreast of the latest technical developments but also stay current on HIT policy and politics. It's the combination of training, personality, and industry insights that will turn even the greenest newbie into a seasoned veteran.

Get the new, all-digital Healthcare CIO 25 issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. It's our second annual honor roll of the health IT leaders driving healthcare's transformation. (Free registration required.)

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Julli
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Julli,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2013 | 7:08:48 AM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
job candidates must not only save abreast of the current theoretical developments but also meet underway on HIT insurance and opinion It's the combination of training personality http://www.realexamguide.com/6...
jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/8/2012 | 10:13:08 PM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
As someone who is constantly hiring new healthcare IT workers, there are a few things I look for. One is that there is something on their resume that reflects they enjoy working with technology. While I do look at degrees it's definitely not at the top of my list. I think people are better off skipping the certificate & degree and working their way up from an entry level healthcare IT position. In the field experience is so valuable and there's really no way to teach it in school.
Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
pdombrow
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pdombrow,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/16/2012 | 9:14:54 PM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
For those with fewer immediate choices, especially university based education, the Nattional Science Foundation is supporting the creation of an entry level certification in health information technology. Available next year, it will be administered by the largest professional society in the sector, the Health Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS). The certification - Certified Associate in Health Information & Management Systems (CAHIMS) - will provide an on ramp for those new to the industry, including the marginalized and underserved who are often frustrated attempting to locate entry to this difficult-to-navigate industry sector. Preparatory curriculum is also being developed, and will be freely distributed to community colleges and health organizations wishing to provide training for the certification exam. A federally registered apprenticeship in health IT, and a national strategy for welcoming veterans into the profession are also on the front burner of workforce development in health IT - exciting developments in a fast moving sector!
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
7/12/2012 | 4:33:17 PM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
"The university system can be pretty slow in adapting to the fast-paced, ever-changing tech world. It takes time to get a master curriculum approved and identify the best textbooks" and this applies to any program from AA and up to masters. Case in point, to renew an AAS (I don't believe in perpetual degress) I attended the same Cisco courses Mr. Sprague cited (far more superficial than the CCNA certification course) as well as Windows and Linux server. It was a couple of years after release of 2008 R2 and the only server course on the list was based on Windows 2003. The course material carried copyrights of three years earlier because it was no longer being updated. Linux was only marginally better. I look at technical degrees on a resume anymore and assume they are at least 3-4 years outdated before the student hits the corporate threshold. Give me a certification and recent practical experience over a degree anyday.

The results of our education system have brought me to look at degrees primarily for their social aspects, can the prospective employee reasonably be expected to understand how to play well with others and did the degree granting institution instill a sense of team association and loyalty (are you an Aggie, a Sooner, an Ivy Leaguer,...). A close but secondary is can they explain the difference between CF, ROI, and CBA. If not, they coasted through a degree to get a piece of paper useless to a great many employers.
PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/12/2012 | 1:12:39 PM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
Thank you for the great advice! I agree with you in regards to attitude, drive, confidence and willingness to continue to learn and change. I think that you can have all the skill in the world but because of a poor attitude and lack of drive then that skill is worthless. Great potential is one of lifeGÇÖs many burdens and it gets wasted to often because of the individuals own attitude toward themselves and the world.
I believe that continuing with education at a larger University (I currently attend Syracuse Universities ISchool for a BA then onto Master) combined with experience and certifications will benefit me the most. Great points and thanks for the tips, it is always welcome to hear advice from someone that has been in the field and changed with the times. Thank you!
I like the Java job posting :)

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/12/2012 | 2:07:23 AM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
Paul,

Skills and experience are great - but having been a hiring manager in the past, the things that I always looked for were attitude, drive and organizational fit.

If you came to work in my shop, I could teach you everything that you would ever need to know - from the tech side to the decision making side to the project management side. But if you had a sour attitude or little to no drive, you weren't going to last very long.

Something else to consider is that when you're in the job search, there are people out there asking for things that don't exist (case in point was a listing that I saw in 1998 asking for someone with 5+ years of experience with Java... which happened to go public in 1995[!]) or asking for things that they don't understand the first thing about (had a phone interview with an HR person a number of years ago that asked me if I was Microsoft HCL certified - at which point I had to explain that I wasn't hardware).

If you're just entering the market - be yourself, be humble, be confident in your skills and be eager to learn... IT is always changing, and if you don't change with it, you'll get left behind.

With regards to the article - I think the choice you make in your education/training path depends a lot on where you want to go and where you envision yourself fitting into someone's organization (or where you want to take your own organization if you plan on setting out as a consultant). I think it's vitally important that you figure out where you want to go, understand clearly where you are and determine how to get from point A to point B.

Best choice, in my opinion, of getting education to enter the workforce in a position with opportunity has to be small school / community college that includes certifications and a LOT of hands-on work. If you are looking to get into management or something along those lines, university education will most likely be the direction you'll end up going, but it's still a good idea to get some basic certifications along the way.

And I have to admit, I got a good chuckle out of the article's title here - especially given all of the various healthcare IT breaches that have been occuring lately.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/11/2012 | 7:50:01 PM
re: How To Break Into Healthcare IT
I would have to say that I am torn between the 2. I know that potential employers look at certifications as relevant experience, and other potential employers look at what university you attended and your course of study. I am speaking from a point of view of a student, still attending school and pursuing certifications and degrees. I feel that a combination of the two will land me the exact position that I am truly qualified for. I gain so much knowledge from both areas I study that it is hard to pick one over the other. I will give you an example; I attended a Community College to gain my AAS, I also took Cisco 1, 2, 3, and 4 (CCNA) while attending, they were required courses for my degree. That being said I know have the knowledge and nothing to show that I am truly capable of Cisco Networking standards. So in addition to the degree I am taking the certification to better demonstrate that particular skill set for potential employers. I got the degree with the certificate all for the same cost, rather than spending additional funds on a separate certification program and tuition bill. Several Universities are now offering similar courses to these. I also have talked to some younger people and certification courses and classes are now being offered to student still attending high school. The author makes very valid points on why each is important in its own ways.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
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