Herman Oosterwijk is a member of the PARCA advisory board as well as part of the Educational Advisory Network established by SIIM and on the Editorial Board of Imaging Technology News.
The ABBI organization recently conducted the first Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP) exam at the annual The Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) meeting held in June in Providence, RI. The test content was published in the fall of 2006, so potential candidates had time and opportunity to prepare themselves.
Since the publication of the outline, many PACS SA professionals have tried to discern the key differences between the SIIM and PARCA certifications by the PACS Administrators Registry and Certification Association (PARCA)
to allow them to make an informed decision on whether to pursue either one
or both certifications. I would like to share my observations based on the discussions I have had with several SAs, in particular with those who have taken both certifications.
The fact that the CIIP certification has been established is yet another justification of the need for some type of validation of a PACS SA’s skills through certification.
The differences I personally observed are as follows:
1. Maturity: PARCA was established more than two years ago and has hundreds of members, many of whom are certified. It is not uncommon to see alumni using the CPSA, CPAS, and etc. titles and there are employment advertisements that specifically spell out the requirement for certified professionals. Training organizations have had the opportunity to align training programs and produce study guides for PARCA, while this is still in progress for CIIP.
2. Entry requirements: CIIP certification requires certain experience and skills that have to be obtained using a point system. PARCA does not have any prerequisites, but rather requires the candidates to prove their experience by way of an exam containing both clinical and IT skills.
3. Global reach: The fact that the PARCA exam can be taken online enables candidates to take this at any time, from any location. This allows for international, and U.S.-based candidates to be certified without having to travel on specific dates to centers which as of now are only located in the U.S.
4. Levels of certification: CIIP has only one level. PARCA has four different levels: an Associate, System Analyst, Interface Analyst and Manager level. Each level requires a separate exam.
5. Requirements: CIIP and PARCA are distinctly different in that CIIP appears to concentrate more on the “soft” skills. For example, the CIIP outline specifies the need to know about procurement, project management, training and education; subjects that are not addressed as part of PARCA. On the other hand, the subject of HL7 and to a lesser degree DICOM is barely mentioned, which is a major part of the PARCA CPIA certification. There is a definite overlap with regard to the clinical and IT requirements. However, it is clear that overall both certifications have a very different focus and emphasis.
6. Emphasis: PARCA is primarily focused on PACS, although not necessarily radiology only; whilst CIIP has made a conscious effort to address imaging at an enterprise level from the start.
It will be interesting to see in the near future how both PARCA and CIIP will develop: Will they come together, grow apart, or continue to address the certification needs of two different classes of professionals? Only time will tell.