PACS administrator certification program gets under way

Experienced PACS administrators will put their knowledge and experience to the test, participating in a pilot examination with the goal of becoming a Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP), at the 2007 Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) meeting in Providence, RI.

The pilot examination, scheduled for June 9, is sponsored by the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII), a newly created independent non-profit organization that evolved from SIIM's two-year-old certification initiative. Founded by SIIM and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) earlier this year, ABII's mission is to enhance patient care, professionalism, and competence in imaging informatics through management of the Imaging Informatics Professional certification program.

The ABII is in the final process of incorporation and finalizing its bylaws. Members of its board of directors, which will have equal representation by SIIM and ARRT with one additional public member, will be announced in early June, according to Anna Marie Mason, SIIM's executive director.

SIIM (formerly known as the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology or SCAR) first announced its initiative to develop a formal certification program for imaging informatics professionals at its 2005 meeting. With the certification program, SIIM aimed to quantify a standard skill set and knowledge base of PACS administrators and other imaging informatics professionals.

The creation of a nonprofit testing organization independent of SIIM evolved as the SIIM Certification Committee investigated the administrative, legal, and tax complexities of operating a "firewalled" certification program within SIIM, according to the Great Falls, VA-based society.

One of the committee's first activities was to prepare a request for proposal (RFP) to non-profit organizations and commercial companies with technical expertise in test development, psychometrics, and certification administration, said J. Anthony Seibert, Ph.D., CIIP certification committee chairman and professor of imaging at the University of California, Davis Medical Center.

"From the responses SIIM received, we realized that the committee had underestimated the work needed to create an unbiased, viable test even though we possessed the intellectual test content knowledge," Seibert said. "The RFP response from ARRT was the most impressive. The staff of the ARRT, which provides certification and testing for all radiologic technologist specialties in the United States, are experts in creating tests that adhere to National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) standards. ARRT has a well-established infrastructure to manage complex testing, certification and recertification processes."

After the ARRT began work with SIIM, it expressed interest in jointly sponsoring a non-profit CIIP testing organization, said fellow committee member Richard Morin, a professor of radiologic physics at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.

"We thought it would be a good partnership, combining the strengths of both organizations," Morin said. 

SIIM members composed all the committees and contributed their experience in imaging informatics to develop the content and items for the exam, while the ARRT contributed its expertise in test development and design processes, Mason said.

"Both organizations have contributed substantial financial support," she said.

For ARRT, the opportunity to sponsor a certification program of a specialty career path that many radiologic technologists have chosen was compelling to the organization's board of directors, according to ARRT executive director Dr. Jerry Reid.

Over the past decade, the position of PACS administrator has attracted individuals with clinical radiology and information technology careers. Both the eligibility requirements and the examination itself are equally weighted for individuals from both backgrounds, SIIM said.

Mason, Reid, and IIP certification committee members emphasized that ARRT's participation does not bias eligibility or the certification examination toward imaging informatics professionals with clinical radiology backgrounds.

Eligibility is based upon a seven-point system requiring a minimum of two years (2 points) of imaging informatics experience. The remaining points reflect a combination of RT or IT certification, formal academic degrees or continuing medical education, and on-the-job experience.

"This flexibility reflects the diversity of backgrounds of current PACS administrators," Seibert said. "The two-year experience requirement guarantees working knowledge as well as intellectual mastery of the subject."

The 150 question multiple-choice exam covers 10 major topics in which a PACS administrator should be proficient, according to SIIM. Topics include: image management, information systems and technology, clinical engineering, operations, systems management, procurement, project management, medical informatics, communications, and training.

The examination content has been created by SIIM members who are leaders in imaging informatics, with more than 100 years of collective experience in academics, administration, clinical radiology and information technology.

ABII intends to offer the examination twice yearly at computer-based commercial testing centers located throughout the United States. The next examination is scheduled in late September.

SIIM's Imaging Informatics Professional Education Subcommittee, whose focus is preparation of educational content and resources for imaging informatics professionals, is structuring its 5th workshop that immediately precedes SIIM's annual meeting on topics included in the ABII test outline that are not covered in the annual meeting program. This day-long workshop will take place June 6 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

SIIM is also sponsoring a new Imaging Informatics Education Advisory Network, which will develop standard curricula based on the contents of the ABII test outline. The subcommittee also has identified a "roadmap" of educational and scientific sessions at SIIM 2007 that are of particular interest to IIPs.

"Earlier this year, key representatives from non-profit organizations and for-profit companies offering PACS administration education courses were invited to participate in a curriculum development initiative that would standardize what is being taught to potential IIP candidates," said committee chairman George Bowers. "This group is very new and has only agreed on the overall vision. It will take a number of years to fully develop the education outline, but it is a very positive development in the evolution of a new profession."

By Cynthia Keen contributing writer
May 30, 2007

Related Reading

SIIM offers scholarship to residents, February 2, 2007

SIIM readies qualification program for PACS administrators, November 15, 2006

SIIM, ARRT to launch CIIP program, September 7, 2006

SIIM announces 2007 informatics grants, June 23, 2006

SCAR adopts new moniker, April 27, 2006

Copyright © 2007

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