Terminology Standards: Why are they important?

Terminology standards represent meaningful health information in digital systems for improved accessibility through clinical information sharing. Terminology standards refer to the language needed to efficiently share patient records in the interoperable electronic health record and for management of the increasing volume of electronic health information. Use of standardized terminologies facilitates the flow of data to achieve interoperability among multiple organizations. This standardized language produces effective communication of accurate health information for many purposes from health system planning and direct patient care. Examples of clinical terminology standards used in Canada include SNOMED CT, LOINC/pCLOCD, and ICD-10-CA/CCI.

Career Progression: Who should hold the Certified Terminology Standards Specialist (CTSS) credential?

This specialization is important for healthcare professionals who work with health information with an interest in health terminologies, interoperable electronic health record, and coding and classification.

Their backgrounds may include health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, laboratory technologists, as well as information technology and Health Information Management professionals in the health sector. These health care professionals have the awareness of terminology standards and could be the clinical champions if they have the willingness to advocate for the change required to support terminology standards.

Health Information Management (HIM®) professionals with an interest in terminology standards and a willingness to learn more about the implementation and sustained use of terminology standards should consider this certification. HIM® professionals currently working in terminology standards roles – such as classification terminology specialists, classifications specialists, and health information coding specialists – have the experience and knowledge in coding and terminology mapping with an advanced understanding of the health care systems. HIM® professionals would benefit from obtaining this credential and be recognized by potential and current employers as skilled and knowledgeable professionals in the terminology standards field.

The increased use of using terminology standards in eHealth solutions has produced evolving roles in terminologies, including mapping specialists, data conversion analysts, interface analysts, data modelers, and terminologists. Professionals working in health informatics, information technology, decision support, information and data analytics with knowledge of and value for terminology standards and interpretation and maintenance of terminology standards in computer systems work with terminology subsets and maps, developing and managing terminology management processes and policies and performing terminology business analysis work.

This credential is also for professionals who contribute to government policy frameworks for comprehensive health terminology systems, develop the guidelines and criteria for the implementation and maintenance of terminology standards, and support overall change management in the health care system. The terminology standards credential is for health care professionals who are passionate about data definitions, EHR interoperability, data exchange and terminology standards, reference terminologies, and privacy and security. These experts actively contribute to the advancement and implementation of health information standards in Canada.

Becoming Certified in Terminology Standards

The Canadian College of Health Information Management (CCHIM) is the national credentialing body that holds the requirements for the CTSS designation (Certified Terminology Standards Specialist).

Credential: Certified Terminology Standards Specialist (CTSS)

The 2019 CTSS National Certification dates are as follows:

Certification timeframe

Fee*(Not including tax)

September 23 - 27, 2019

$349.00

*This covers the CTSS administrative fees.  Certified Membership for the remainder of the fiscal year (ending February 28th) is included in the certification fee for individuals who are not yet certified members.

Eligibility criteria: Candidates must be a graduate from a CCHIM accredited Terminology Standards Program to be eligible to apply for the Terminology Standards Certification.

Maintenance requirements for the credential:

  1. Current Certified Membership is required to hold this credential.  More details of the value of membership can be found here: https://www.echima.ca/membership
  2. Adherence to the CHIMA code of ethics, which can be found here: https://www.echima.ca/him/ethics
  3. Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Requirements:
      • CTSS Certified members must maintain 12 continuing professional education credits per three-year cycle. This cycle will start on March 1st, following their earned credential. 
      • Certified members who hold the CHIM credential must continue to maintain 36 continuing education credits per three-year cycle.  To maintain both the CHIM credential and the CTSS credential, members must obtain an additional 12 CPE credits, therefore 48 CPE credits per three-year cycle.

CHIMA will be accepting applications for the CTSS Certification starting in spring 2019. CHIMA will provide updates on the progress as we finalize the details for this project.

Graduate Certificate: University of Victoria

The University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada is the CCHIM-accredited university for delivering terminology standards. In order to apply for CCHIM Terminology Standards Certification and gain the CTSS credential, you must have successfully graduated from this program.

The program is constructed to be convenient for working professionals. This one-year, part-time, online program was built for professionals working in the health sector and is intended to help meet national and international needs for best practices in controlled terminologies used in the health industry. This program provides the standardized language needed to efficiently share patient records in a web-based environment and manage the growing volume of electronic health data.

Admission requirements for the Health Terminology Standards Program include one of the following:

  • Baccalaureate degree in a health or information technology related field; OR 
  • Diploma in a health or information technology related field (i.e. CHIM) plus fifteen (15) years related experience or demonstrate relevant professional expertise; OR
  • Applicants currently enrolled as graduate students in the University of Victoria Master of Science in Health Informatics or Master of Nursing 
All applicants must satisfy all regular admissions requirements of the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Graduate Studies.

For additional details on the admission requirements, course outlines, and delivery methods can be found on the University of Victoria website. Find out more here: https://www.uvic.ca/hsd/hinf/graduate/certificate/index.php

For more information on the Health Terminology Standards Program through the University of Victoria, please contact Dr. Francis Lau at fylau@uvic.ca

Application deadline: May 1

Entry into the program: September (the same year)

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