SIIM chair takes on certification ?myths?
Any new professional certification seems to take on an almost mythological life of its own—most particularly among the candidates who have elected to be tested for the designation. No matter how clear the program developers are about certification requirements, education, and competency examinations; rumors and myths abound about every aspect of the process.

The Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP) certification for demonstrated knowledge and competence in medical imaging informatics is no exception to this type of myth making. The CIIP is administered by the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII), a non-profit organization founded by the Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

In a column recently published online before print in the Journal of Digital Imaging, SIIM chair Curtis P. Langlotz, MD, PhD, addressed 10 CIIP myths he has seen in web postings and media coverage.

The first myth is that it is challenging to meet the CIIP exam qualifications. Langlotz stated that eligibility criteria reflect a balance between clinical and technical backgrounds, as well as between experience, formal education, and credentials.

“This balance makes it fair and straightforward for imaging informatics professionals to qualify for the CIIP exam,” he wrote.

The second myth Langlotz addressed is that there are no clear learning objectives for the CIIP exam. The ABII has published a complete test content outline of 10 areas of knowledge identified as being critical to competent performance. In addition, he noted that the SIIM Education Advisory Network (EAN) is spearheading the development of a comprehensive model curriculum.

The next myth in Langlotz’ site is that the CIIP process focuses on organizational issues, project management, and operations. Although these elements are part of the certification exam, they comprise only 20 percent of the test weighting, he noted.

“The remaining 80 percent of the exam focuses on image management (20 percent), information technology (15 percent), systems management (10 percent), clinical engineering (10 percent), medical informatics (10 percent), communications (10 percent), and training and education (5 percent),” he wrote.

Next on Langlotz’ debunking agenda is the statement that the CIIP certification is one of several tracks toward certification. According to Langlotz, “the areas tested by the certification exam are considered essential to competence, regardless of whether a career track emphasizes technological, organizational, or workflow issues.

The fifth myth Langlotz dispels is that it was difficult to agree on the job requirements for a typical imaging informatics professional. He stated that the CIIP job requirements, and their relative emphasis in the certification exam, were based on a survey of working informatics professionals.

“Consensus was reached rapidly on these requirements and their relative importance,” he wrote.

The myth that some PACS education courses mirror the questions on the CIIP exam was also laid to rest. According to Langlotz, the ABII does not endorse any course, any vendor, or any printed material.

“CIIP test questions are developed and reviewed by a group of experts, each of whom signs an agreement not to disclose test question information,” he wrote. “Certification candidates sign a similar agreement.”

He did note that although no course can claim to teach to the test, many courses closely follow the ABII test content outline.

Another CIIP test myth that Langlotz shot down was that the exam consists of a fixed set of questions.

“CIIP exam questions are proposed by a select group of imaging informatics experts and placed in a database, where they are pilot-tested and validated,” he wrote. “For each certification exam, a variable subset of these questions is drawn from the database.”

The myth making the rounds that the ABII is not independent was also addressed by Langlotz.

“SIIM and ARRT each appoint three of ABII’s seven board members,” he explained. “The seventh board member is a representative of the lay public, nominated by both SIIM and ARRT. Once these board members are appointed, their duty is to act in the best interests of ABII, not SIIM, ARRT, or any other organization.”

The money myth, that the CIIP was established for SIIM and ARRT profit, was taken to task by Langlotz in his column.

“There is no financial relationship between ABII and SIIM or ARRT,” he wrote. “ABII fees were set to make the certification process financially self-sustaining. The reality is that rigorous certification programs generally are not profitable.”

The final myth in Langlotz’ top-10 list, that the first CIIP exam candidates were stressed out, probably isn’t a myth at all. The taking of exams generally tends to invoke stress in the people being tested.

Langlotz recognizes this fact, but reported that “the comments received from those taking the first two certification exams were overwhelmingly positive.”