Five criteria for choosing a certified EHR specialist

By Molly Merrill
09:22 AM

As the need for certified electronic health record specialists (CEHRS) grows, it is important that healthcare organizations are able to recognize whether potential candidates are EHR-ready, says one consultant.

The CEHRS job is to create, maintain and secure patient records, said Lena Feygin, executive VP of Alameda Services, a New York City-based HIT organization specializing in workforce development and intense EHR training.

Alameda has developed a curriculum for training EHR specialists in two years. She said it focuses on four major areas: the technology segment, the workflow and business processes, compliance with regulations like HIPAA and ARRA and a hands-on component that requires working with the software in a clinical environment.

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Feygin says that their program often exceeds the requirements of the National Healthcare Association (NHA), the governing body for the CEHRS certification, and has been successfully piloted at La Guardia Community College and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty.

“We believe that EHR employment readiness requires training and knowledge of both the healthcare industry and the information technology that the industry uses. We often see one or the other, but it isn’t sufficient,” said Feygin, who is also director of business development for Alameda Services.

The training organization has developed a five- point checklist to help prospective workforce development organizations, students and healthcare providers assess the readiness of an EHR candidate for certification and employment.

EHR Employment Readiness Checklist:

  1. Get healthcare and EHR expertise. Candidates for EHR training and CEHRS certification should have prior experience in either healthcare administration or information technology. Someone who has worked in a healthcare practice as a front desk clerk, billing person, or office manager might require a skills upgrade that will not only enable them to maintain their existing job, but gain a new job and add to their earning power. Someone with IT experience who understands hardware and software infrastructure will require clinical- and healthcare-specific software training that will allow for a wider spectrum of job opportunities. Training for the CEHRS exam requires that students understand both healthcare practice operations as well as medical record-keeping information. “It’s not enough to understand how a healthcare practice operates or how some software works; EHR specialists must understand both in order to be effective,” says Feygin.
  2. Study with an NHA-approved curriculum. Ensure that the training program is approved by the NHA. “Training organizations that provide approved national certification, such as CEHRS, as part of their programs report better retention, and placement,” says Feygin. “In addition, approved certification fosters the adoption of standards and an understanding of basic topics required for better job opportunities.”
  3. Obtain more hours of EHR training than the baseline. While the NHA only requires 60 hours of training, Alameda Services suggests that significant additional training is necessary so EHR students can spend hands-on time with more than one EHR system, making them more versatile with multiple products. This increased training can also enable them to actively participate, where applicable, in the selection of an EHR that is most fitting for a given healthcare practice. “We provided students in our EHR training programs for La Guardia Community College and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty with more than five times the required baseline – over 300 hours of training,” says Feygin. “The NHA certification sets the criteria and baseline for the industry. But we feel it is important to understand that achieving the baseline alone is not enough for success in the field.”
  4. Become fluent in healthcare records compliance. There is an entire alphabet-soup of healthcare records compliance requirements that healthcare records specialists must be fluent in: HIPAA, ARRA, HITECH, PQRI and Meaningful Use criteria. “We recognize that this can almost seem like speaking a second or third language,” says Feygin. “But healthcare providers must adjust to the new rules and demonstrate compliance. EHR specialists must be capable of preparing practices for these changes in the field.”  In August she says the company is launching an eLearning program geared to those in the workforce that will aim at getting them up to speed on compliance issues.
  5. Learn multiple EHRs. While there are many competing EHR software packages, there are a great number of similarities. Becoming trained in multiple EHR programs makes students more employable, according to Feygin. “Healthcare EHR staffers who have hands-on experience with more than one EHR are able to provide guidance to their healthcare practices about which one might be the best fit. They can also quickly adapt to an existing EHR as a new employee.” She says the company provides a “vendor agnostic program”, which can be plugged into any program.  Currently they work with EHR vendors Practice Fusion and EHealth Made Easy.

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