If you are pursuing a career in health information management, coding, health data analysis or health care privacy and security, you may want to consider a certification program from the American Health Information Management Association. This professional association offer various certifications in the field. The programs are overseen by a commission of people who hold AHIMA credentials.
The AHIMA offers seven certification options: registered health information administrator (RHIA); registered health information technician (RHIT); certified coding associate (CCA); certified coding specialist (CCS); certified coding specialist-physician based (CCS-P); certified health data analyst (CHDA); and certified in healthcare privacy and security (CHPS). Each certification program has different eligibility requirements and its own examination that candidates must pass to receive the credential. In addition, each require recertification to maintain the credential.
The AHIMA lists a number of reasons why certification may be beneficial for health information professionals. Most of these deal with how the job market views certified employees. Certification may make you a better candidate for employment, increase your salary potential, and help you advance in your career, according to the AHIMA. Lastly, certification opens you up to AHIMA's network of peers.
Though AHIMA is the main face of the certification programs, the Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management plays a huge role in ensuring that the certification programs are well run. The people on the commission must have an AHIMA certification, and are subject to the same standards as certification candidates. Therefore, in “establishing, implementing and enforcing” the AHIMA certification standards, the commission's members have firsthand experience in the process.
All of the certification examinations are based on analysis of the functions of the various health information jobs. For example, the exams for coding specialists are based on the requirements of medical coding jobs. In general, knowledge areas that are predominantly used on the job receive more exam questions than those that are used less frequently.
Fees for the certification exams vary by test and your membership status to the AHIMA. As of May 2010, the least expensive fee was for the CCA credential, which cost $199 for AHIMA members and $299 for non-members. The highest fees in May 2010 were for the CCS and the CCS-P certifications, at $299 for members and $399 for non-members.