India is a large country with a huge population of 1.3 billion. As such, it is to be expected that providing healthcare for our people is a most challenging affair. Less than 10 percent of our citizens receive quality healthcare — the other 90 percent receive limited care or no care at all.
The World Health Organization ranks India’s healthcare system at 112 out of 190 countries. Healthcare spending in India is just over four percent of national GDP, compared to 18 percent in the United States. In 2014, the Modi government promised an ambitious revamp of the country’s medical system, but there is still a great amount of work to be done.
Although Indian healthcare is largely self-funded, there is free public healthcare for low-income individuals. Unfortunately, this free care is beset with a multitude of problems including poor infrastructure, lack of medical professionals, and health care centers limited to doing little more than prescribing drugs.
There is also a wide gap between accessibility and quality between urban and rural areas. While a number of urban areas can boast a quality of healthcare comparable to that of major Western nations, rural areas rely almost entirely on the aforementioned free public healthcare — this in spite of the fact that more than 70 percent of our population is rural.
Public healthcare in rural areas also struggles due to a general reluctance on the part of experienced health care providers to work in such locations. Healthcare in these areas, catering to the poor, too often must rely on inexperienced medical professionals — freshers mandatorily serving in rural clinics as part of their medical school requirements. Once these individuals fulfill such requirements, they soon leave.
The rise of private healthcare providers
Because of this conundrum, private healthcare in India is a rapidly growing industry. High-quality care centers are primarily confined to a few major cities with services provided mostly through privately managed hospitals and clinics.
Care at these facilities is comparable to the best in the world, and the relatively lower cost of receiving that care makes them an attractive option for medical tourism — a $2 billion U.S. industry. Clientele from neighboring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan also visit these urban healthcare facilities regularly to receive treatment.
Non-medical healthcare personnel needed
Privately-run urban medical centers employ an abundance of India’s highly-qualified medical professionals, as well as its non-medical healthcare workers.
The non-medical healthcare worker’s job profile is varied and includes tasks like patient appointment scheduling, bed distribution, maintenance of patient records and developing computer applications to maintain patient records or retail medicines.
Finding experienced and qualified workers for these tasks has been difficult, with hospitals frequently having to use hotel management and allied professionals to fill in. Hence the demand for healthcare certifications and the increase in younger people beginning to consider the field as a career option.
Healthcare jobs require varied skills and the requirements are constantly changing as treatment facilities adopt new technologies and follow the latest medical processes. Because record-management and lab results are electronically maintained, the expectation is that healthcare professionals will have a solid understanding of technology and the ability to adapt to the ever changing technology requirements and medical advancements.
The top healthcare IT certification
One certification that stands out is the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). RHIA is a widely accepted healthcare certification examination. An RHIA certified professional manages patient health information and medical records, collects patient information and classifies them according to medical terminologies and is trained to ensure that each patient’s medical records are complete, secure and accessible only to the persons authorized individuals.
In addition to medical records management, the RHIA certification trains members in management of the processes and systems that capture and report on health care-related data so that it can be used to evaluate care performance. RHIAs need to understand medical, administrative, ethical and legal requirements related to IT healthcare software development and also legal requirements and standards for privacy of patient data.
In a typical day RHIAs will interact with all levels of a medical organization including clinical, financial, administrative, and information systems to help make treatment decisions. They also manage other employees and units, participate in committees and prepare budgets.
As per data in various Indian job portals, the RHIA appears to be the most in demand healthcare certification. Demand is 40 percent greater compared to other certifications. RHIAs work throughout the healthcare industry in hospitals, multi-specialty clinics and physician practices, long-term care, mental health, and ambulatory care settings.
In recent years RHIAs have been expanding into non-patient care settings such as managed care and insurance companies, software vendors, consulting services, government agencies, education, and even pharmaceutical companies.
RHIA certification is popular for a number of reasons. For one, the qualification offers access to a degree in healthcare where students can enlist after meeting the eligibility criteria. A degree added to the RHIA is a major plus because private organizations do not usually employ undergraduates and high-end hospitals are not likely to break this norm as it could impact brand image and sell ability.
A degree program is also more appealing to students as it gives them a feeling of security and a likelihood of greater job prospects down the road.
The second reason for RHIA’s popularity is that it is the preferred qualification for higher-level management positions like Health Information Management Director, Registered Health Information Administrator or Clinical Director. The credential gives aspirants a clear advantage in their career path.
To become RHIA certified an individual must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:
- Complete an on-campus, online, or hybrid bachelor’s program in health information management (HIM) or health information technology (HIT) that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
- Complete master’s level requirements of an HIM program accredited by CAHIIM and following a specific set of criteria.
- Graduate from a HIM program that is approved by a foreign association that has a reciprocity agreement with AHIMA.
The RHIA exam is conducted at a local Pearson Vue Testing center. The exams consist of 180 multiple-choice questions covering topics like health data management, privacy and security, database design, human resource management, and information technology systems. The exam period is a solid four hours in duration, with a score of 300 out of a possible 400 needed to clear.
Learning materials are available online via AHMIA. Registration for the exam can be both online and paper based, and the cost of certification is ₹15,000 ($229 U.S.) for AHMIA members and ₹20,000 ($299 U.S.) for non-members.
RHIA credentialed individuals are required to recertify by completing 30 continuing education credits (CEUs) every two years. Candidates must participate in accepted and qualified CEU activities related to the certification. CEUs can be earned via AHIMA training, college credit, employer-related training, as well as training from other providers. For a more complete discussion of recertification, please click here.
If you fail to earn the requisite number of CEUs, you will have to apply for reinstatement of your certification. This requires you to pay a reinstatement fee of $175 U.S., and complete additional CEUs within a certain time frame. Click here to see a copy of the reinstatement form.
Other certification options
While the RHIA is the preferred healthcare credential in India, three additional certifications gaining in popularity are the Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS) and CPHIMS, the professional level version. Both certifications are offered by HIMSS, a not-for-profit entity whose goal is better health via IT. HIMSS certifications are relatively new, but, because they focus on security, demand is expected to continue rising.
The third certification is the Certified Professional in Health Information Technology (CPHIT). This certification is for mid-level professions and is not a direct competitor of RHIA. It introduces the use of health information technology in any setting within the care continuum.
Healthcare in India is improving rapidly. However, there is still a great need for trained and certified professionals, particularly in the rural areas. An RHIA certification is an entry way to a secure and well-paying position in the industry.