AHIMA revises its certification requirements

ART requirement, RRA proviso approved

Future candidates for Accredited Record Technician (ART) and Registered Record Administrator (RRA) certification take note: Revisions to the Standards for Initial Certification were approved by delegates at the 70th annual meeting of the Chicago-based American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) in October. Both revisions are parts of AHIMA’s Vision 2006, an eight-point strategic initiative to move the health information management profession into the next century.

Associate’s degree required

One significant change is that after Sept. 30, 2002, candidates for initial certification as an ART will be required to have an associate’s degree earned from an accredited health information technology program. ART certification candidates who have completed AHIMA’s independent study program will be required to have earned an associate’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university. This change will not affect anyone who is currently credentialed as an ART or who obtains his or her credential prior to Sept. 30, 2002.

"The philosophy [in adding that requirement] was that current marketplace trends in all fields demand more education as a prerequisite for being a professional," explains Belinda Brunner, AHIMA’s director of certification. "Increasing the minimum standard is consistent with that trend."

The new requirement primarily affects individuals completing the AHIMA Independent Study Program in Health Information Technology. Previously, candidates had to have at least 30 semester hours of college level courses. The 2002 date was selected to give individuals in the program due notice of the new requirement.

Many of the certification candidates already have an associate or more advanced degree, Brunner says. AHIMA statistics show that more than 90% of the individuals who sit for the ART certification each year hold at least an associate’s degree. The change in standards, therefore, would affect less than 10% of the ART candidates.

RRA proviso added

The delegates also approved a proviso to the Standards for Initial Certification regarding the RRA exam. ARTs who meet certain requirements will be eligible to take the RRA exam between 1999 and 2004.

These requirements mandate that ARTs:

• have at least a baccalaureate degree;

• have received an ART credential on or before Dec. 31, 1999;

• have complied with the Standards for Maintenance of ART certification, which means candidates for the RRA exam must be up-to-date on their continuing education hours.

"Prior to the passing of the proviso to the standards for initial RRA certification, ARTs were not eligible to write the RRA exam unless they went through an accredited baccalaureate degree health information administration program," Brunner says.

The limited number of four-year programs, however, have resulted in many practicing ARTs earning baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degrees in related disciplines.

The proviso’s "window of opportunity" has been created to recognize ART-credentialed professionals who have obtained their baccalaureate degree or post-baccalaureate degree in related disciplines and wish to obtain their RRA certification.

The time frame for the proviso is limited because AHIMA is currently implementing a newly approved model curriculum in the fall of 1998 for all of its educational programs, Brunner says. "The new model curriculum intensifies and clearly distinguishes between the differences in the breadth and the depth of health information educational preparation among the [HIT and HIA] levels."

If track programs are approved at the baccalaureate level, AHIMA hopes that four-year degrees will become more accessible.