JDI: Imaging informatics pros develop certification exam

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The journey to create a certification exam to evaluate imaging informatics professionals has taken several years and hundreds of volunteer hours. The process, both “slow and deliberate,” involved practicing informaticists closely scrutinizing the results of each test to ensure the societies are providing a “useful instrument” for professionals to improve their careers, according to a review in this month’s issue of the Journal of Digital Imaging.

The mission of American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII), founded in 2005 by the Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), is to enhance patient care, professionalism and competence in imaging informatics. This goal is sought primarily through the development and administration of a certification exam, according review authors Mark Raymond, PhD, ARRT’s principal assessment scientist of the national board of examiners, and Paul G. Nagy, MD, from the department of diagnostic imaging at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The need for a certification exam was partly rooted in the acceleration of PACS adoption, which brought in IT professionals with no clinical experience or understanding of radiology as PACS support staff. The evolution of the job description was another factor. “PACS administrators found themselves performing multiple roles as application specialists, providing technical support, and managing relationships with multiple departments," wrote the authors, who added that the need to identify a set of core competancies had become "clear."

After vetting 400 submitted questions over several months, the certification committee administered the pilot test to 100 qualified participants as a paper-and-pencil test on June 9, 2007, at the SIIM annual meeting in Providence, RI. Subsequently, examinees were invited to comment on individual questions for relevance and accuracy.

According to Raymond and Nagy, a criterion-referenced standard-setting procedure known as the Angoff method was used to set the passing score for the certified imaging informatics professional (CIIP) exam. The certification committee and other imaging informatics representatives inspected each item on the exam and estimated the proportion of minimally qualified test takers who would answer the item correctly.

Of the 103 examinees who took the pilot exam, 99 passed. The authors noted that the “high pass rate was attributed to the fact that a majority of individuals who signed up for the pilot study were highly motivated and very proficient early adopters.”

Two CIIP exams have been administered since the pilot test, and a scale has been set with 75 as the passing point. Although the pass rate has dropped, the “current pass rates are reasonable and indicate that examinees are generally quite proficient,” Raymond and Nagy said. “For example, pass rates for other certification programs in medical imaging typically range from about 80 to 90 percent.”

The industry of imaging informatics in medicine is undergoing powerful transformations as IT has escalating effects on care delivery. By working with practicing informaticists, the authors concluded that ABII has built an “organizational engine that can evolve and adapt the examination to the changing needs of our industry.”

The authors also noted that ABII invites diplomates of the exam to submit new items for future tests and become involved in exam assembly working groups.