Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Certification for the Rest of Informatics

After several years of planning, professional certification is coming to the rest of the informatics field, i.e., moving beyond just board certification for eligible physicians. While certification is somewhat easier to apply in the context of the physician board model, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has now rolled out the AMIA Health Informatics Certification (AHIC, formerly Advanced Health Informatics Certification). Those who are certified will be designated as ACHIP, the AMIA Certified Health Informatics Professional. A section of the AMIA Web site provides detailed on the certification, eligibility for it, applying for and taking the exam, and recertification.

While AHIC is open to all who have a master's or doctoral degree in health informatics or a related discipline, the certification process is not conferred upon initial completion of one's education. Rather, individuals also need to have completed qualifying work experience to be eligible for certification. This is different from some fields, such as medicine, including the clinical informatics subspecialty, where one takes the board certification exam shortly after completing formal training. There are a number of healthcare disciplines that require significant work experience for certification, such as some of the advanced certifications offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

The qualifications for AHIC are listed in a table on the AHIC Web site. There are two tracks of eligibility. Track 1 is for those who have a graduate degree in a health informatics-related area, e.g., health informatics, biomedical informatics, nursing informatics, public health informatics, translational bioinformatics, etc. Track 2 is for those who have a graduate degree in a related field, e.g., health professions such as nursing, pharmacy, and medicine, and other fields such as computer science and public health. The work time required for those in Track 1 is 50-100% work time over the last four of six years or 20-49% time over the last six of eight years. The work time required for those in Track 2 is 50-100% work time over the last six of eight years or 20-49% time over the last eight of 10 years.

The certification process is being developed and managed by the Health Informatics Certification Commission (HICC), a 14-member commission that is part of AMIA yet has considerable autonomy from AMIA, especially with regards to AMIA's educational programs. The HICC is responsible for eligibility, examination development, and recertification requirements for AHIC.

The first offering of the certification exam is taking place this fall. The outline of exam topics follows  the health informatics workforce analysis commissioned by AMIA (Gadd, C.S., Steen, E.B., Caro, C.M., Greenberg, S., Williamson, J.J., Fridsma, D.B., 2020. Domains, tasks, and knowledge for health informatics practice: results of a practice analysis. J Am Med Inform Assoc 27, 845–852., just as the clinical informatics subspecialty exams now uses the complementary clinical informatics subspecialty workforce analysis for its exam blueprint.

The two questions someone enrolled in or contemplating seeking a degree in informatics will likely ask are: (1) Is this certification process for me? and (2) Will it benefit my career? Since this form of certification is new for professionals who work in informatics, the benefits at this time are unknown. The main drivers of the uptake will be employers who make hiring decisions that are influenced by job candidates having the certification. Similar to the clinical informatics subspecialty, we will probably see a gradual uptake of the AHIC over time. It may never be an absolute requirement for a job but it will be an important "feather in one's cap" when competing with others for a given position.