Healthcare IT professionals from many countries are looking to the U.S. for examples on how to best deploy and implement imaging informatics technology. In addition, they want the professionals who administer and manage these critical systems in their countries to be highly qualified.
There is quite an experience base in PACS system administration that the U.S. is able to offer its counterparts in other countries. According to a recent survey, we found that nearly 50 percent of U.S.-based PACS system administrators have between three and five years of experience, while about 36 percent have been in the field for five to 10 years. This is significant because little more than a decade ago the profession of PACS administrator was virtually non-existent, and certification wasn’t a glimmer on the healthcare IT professional radar.
In response to international petitions for guidance, PARCA has committed itself, under new leadership, to a renewed and strong international focus with active leadership participation from Australia and Canada, as well as Asian countries.
Next-Gen PACS Professionals
What will the next decade bring for PACS professionals? For PARCA, it will be an exciting and innovative time as the organization extends its work on providing leadership for professional certification on a worldwide basis. For PACS in general, it will be a time of expanding these systems beyond radiology and integrating them with other diagnostic imaging specialities.
Cardiology departments have been among the first to embrace PACS technology, and surgery, orthopedics, dentistry and ophthalmology are poised to bring PACS to their departments. Pathology, as it meets the challenges of workflow and utilization, will create a paradigm shift in archiving and retrieval of its image sets, which scale 10 to 100 times the size of the largest current radiology studies.
These specialties will look to certified, professional PACS administrators to provide them with guidance and insight for the deployment of the technology. Challenges and solutions to implementing PACS in these departments will no doubt require changes to certification and exam requirements, but this is the essence of technology and continuous learning.
PARCA Charts Own Path
The first step is to extend certification opportunities to PACS professionals internationally. But frequently many want to know why there are two different PACS administrator certifications: the one administered by the PACS Administrators Registry and Certification Association (PARCA) and the Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP) designation administered by the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII).
A comparison of the two programs demonstrates that each addresses a different IT focus - the CIIP is concentrated on an organizational track, while PARCA places more emphasis on a technical and workflow skill set. In addition, qualifications for the certification exam are different for each organization. One is required to accumulate a certain number of “points” to sit for the CIIP, while PARCA requires proof of competency through a series of examinations.
The delivery of the certification tests is also different. PARCA’s exams are online and available from any Internet-enabled location, while the CIIP exam is administered through testing centers and on-site locations. Pricing for each qualification track is also dissimilar, which can be a consideration for those financing their own professional certification.
Representatives from the ABII and PARCA met this summer and discussed exactly this issue. The positive result from this exercise is that it forced PARCA to reexamine its goals that a joint PACS certification organization is not yet feasible. Thanks to the success of the certification track PARCA offers, it does not believe there are reasons to make any drastic changes to its existing program. However, based on a significant increase in the desire for PACS education and training outside the U.S., the organization recognized that PACS certification is not a U.S.-centric issue. With that knowledge in hand, it is clear that the next generation of PACS admins will largely include professionals from all over the world.
However, both groups have enjoyed success and growth by allowing healthcare IT professionals to choose a certification track that best meets their career objectives.
Although both the PARCA and CIIP paths have demonstrated value and merit, a common question voiced by PACS administrators is why there are two organizations administering and coordinating certification. From a candidate’s standpoint, there should be no reason why a PACS professional certification could not be managed by a single entity.