Get Matched With Health Informatics Programs
You may want to work in the healthcare field but not to work directly with patients. In that case, you might want to consider a job as a health information technician. In this position, you’ll be involved in keeping track of patient information in their electronic health records (EHR). Hospitals, medical practices, healthcare facilities, and treatment facilities don’t rely on old paper medical records anymore since they were required recently to move those easy-to-lose paper files to an electronic format.
As a technician in this field, you’ll work with a specialized set of databases that enable you to catalog each patient’s record, update and track it, and produce accurate healthcare statistics. You review each patient’s record to ensure it is accurate and complete and you’ll keep track of each patient’s outcomes and you classify and code each test, their diagnoses, and treatments for their insurance companies.
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What is a Registered Health Information Technician?
This specialist is one of the professionals who goes through patient records to make sure they are complete and accurate. They enter them into specialized computer systems and make use of computer applications that help to put together and analyze patient data so that employers can improve patient care or control facility costs.
Steps to Become Health Information Technicians:
Step 1: Enroll in Health Information Technicians degree programs
Step 2: Find an internship and gain real-world working skills
Step 3: Start looking for Health Information Technicians positions before you graduate
Step 4: Earn Your Certification
Step 1: Enroll in an RHIT degree program
You can begin by researching the registered health information technician degree programs at community colleges in your area. You’ll want to make sure to find a CAHIIM accredited program. At the outset of your health information technicians career, all you’ll need is an associate degree in this field. However, if you decide you want to move up the career chain, you will need to return to school for your bachelor’s degree, which should take another two years to earn if you already have an associate degree.
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In your associate degree program, you’ll learn about medical record coding, health informatics, health information management, and biological sciences. Why biological sciences? You’ll need to be knowledgeable about patient care and different systems of the body so that you know that the appropriate codes have been applied to a patient’s chart. Your degree allows you to ready yourself for two fast-growing fields: information technology and healthcare.
Step 2: Find an internship and gain real-world working skills
A rigorous degree program will have you participate in at least one internship. In some programs, two internships are required of all health information technicians. These will give you the chance to meet and network with office managers, doctors, and other technicians who are working in the health field. Including your internships, you should be able to complete your degree in about 18 to 30 months (full-time or part-time, respectively).
A comprehensive RHIT program includes management, finance, medicine, law, and information technology. In this way, you’ll graduate as a well-rounded health information technician, ready to study for and take a certification exam. Including at least one internship in your degree program and requirements gives you a few advantages. First, you’ll be able to take advantage of more opportunities. Second, it could increase your annual wage and, finally, it will set you up for career success.
Step 3: Start looking for health information technicians positions before you graduate
Now that you’re getting closer to graduation, it’s time to start looking for a job and arranging for the certification exam so you’ll have every important document you need to work in this field. Your college’s student placement center is a good start for seeking a position as a health information technician. This service helps you to draft out a resume and cover letters for each opening you are interested in.
It’s an excellent idea to start looking for a job placement before you graduate as this field is a challenging one to enter. Start to network with friends and fellow students, letting them know you’re ready to start applying and interviewing for job openings. Check social media as well, asking your friends online for a heads-up on openings. Once you’ve taken the certification exam and passed it, you’ll be a registered health information technician.
Step 4: Earn Your Certification
You have a few choices of accredited certification agencies. These are the American Health Information Management (AHIMA) and the Commission on Accredited Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM). Both agencies administer the national certification exam and this test is challenging, so be sure to study.
AHIMA offers certification to new graduates; these certifications also apply to your colleagues who are in management or who have earned bachelor’s degrees. The study course and testing are challenging because you’ll be expected to work at a high level of accuracy. You’ll also have to renew your certification every few years. In your field, the demand for more qualified employees is going up because of more advanced technology, and because more healthcare facilities are converting paper records into electronic records.
With certifications from both agencies, you’ll be ready to work. After earning your certification, you’ll be better equipped to maintain a high quality of the information in each patient’s record, which improves individual patient outcomes. You may also work with various computer applications that allow you to analyze patient data.
What Do Health Information Technicians Do?
A registered health information technician works with patient records to ensure they are accurate and enters them into the facility’s computer systems. As the population grows and ages, you’ll find the demand for people in this field is going up. The work may also require that you learn a variety of computer systems since there is not yet any standardization within the industry. You won’t have to worry about integrating your system with another, that’s the job of IT and cyber security specialists, but when you move from one facility to another, you can’t expect the systems to be the same.
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At first, many in this field begin working as medical coders, where they enter patient information and correctly catalog diagnostics and treatments for filing with the insurance company and tracking data for national health statistics. If you are detail-oriented and a skilled organizer, this might be a great role for you to consider. No matter where you end up within this field, you’ll need to learn medical terminology so that you can quickly understand what you are reading and entering on a patient’s chart.
You may need to earn at least an associate degree from a degree program that has been accredited by Commission on Accredited Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM). This accrediting organization verifies that the degree program at individual community colleges meets the academic quality and academic standards that have been established by American Health Information Management (AHIMA).
Your skillset in health information technicians position means you work directly with the patient-driven data. The work you do provides information to your employer, who looks for ways to save money; insurance companies, who must make sure that they are paying for the correct diagnostics or treatments; and national organizations which track health statistics nationwide. You may specialize in data input, helping to capture particular bits of information. This may include data for medical coding for reimbursement. This information may also be used for research purposes.
Registered Health Information Technician Skills To Acquire
- Attention to Detail:
You ensure that each patient’s information is correctly cataloged and entered into the electronic system, then securely stored. If you overlook an error, it could cost the patient significantly in either money or health outcomes, as well as compromise their data security.
- Health Information Technology:
You must be well-equipped with computer skills so that you can function on the job. You’ll help to maintain the electronic databases of both healthcare results and patient care; having experience with server rooms or network applications makes you a more attractive employee.
Your mind should be analytical and you should be able to solve problems easily. You may determine which coding structure you’ll use for a medical procedure or you may need to decide how to share a patient’s data with a different doctor.
- Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving:
Your thinking skills (problem-solving skills) should be sharp. How do you figure out an issue so you, the facility, and patient are best served? You need to be able to use technology, your knowledge of laws, regulations, and hospital policies to arrive at an answer.
- Teamwork and Communication:
Your role requires you to communicate with others in your healthcare setting and other healthcare providers; building interpersonal skills will help you here. You need to be able to interact well with people so that patients understand everything they are told.
The role of health information technicians is so critical that there is no realistic alternative pathway that allows you to move upward into this position. To have a chance of finding and landing a position in this healthcare field means you need at minimum, an associate degree, technical skills, and a certification that confirms to health information management that you are able to do the job satisfactorily.
Specifically, you need training and skills in medicine, computer science, and business management. After graduation, you’ll be working daily with medical records and health information technicians carrying out the same tasks as you. Your profession requires you to adhere to a Code of Ethics; going to school to study this is mandatory.
One major reason that you need to earn a degree in this field is that certification requires the degree. Depending on your role at work and your degree, you may earn certifications in Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), or Certified Coding Specialist-Physician (CCS-P). A Registered Health Information Administration (RHIA) requires you to hold a bachelor’s degree in a field such as health management.
Some health information management positions also require different certifications. These include Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA), Certified Health Technology Specialist (CHTS), and Certified Professional in Health Informatics (CPHI). However, these credentials aren’t as widespread.
Registered Health Information Technician Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
You’ll be able to work in a variety of settings, such as a physician’s practice (about 15% of jobs), nursing care, providing skilled nursing services (3%), in administrative support services (5%), nursing care facilities (3%), and in hospitals (private, state, and local – 37%). Expect to work in a professional office setting, in front of a computer.
Where you work (hospital, administrative support services, etc.) shouldn’t affect your daily duties. These include maintaining the confidentiality of patient records, reviewing records for their completeness, timeliness, how appropriate the data is and its accuracy, verifying nursing care, tracking patient outcomes for quality assessment, organizing/maintaining patient data to be input to registries and clinical databases, making use of classification software to assign the correct clinical code for reimbursement by insurance companies, and recording data electronically for collection and storage, retrieval, reporting, and analysis.
Expect to work closely with nurses and doctors so you can verify diagnoses and obtain more information to make patient records complete and accurate. A management professional supervises your work as a double check on accuracy. If you are assigned to medical billing, your entries must be accurate.
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Now that electronic health records (EHRs) are being used so much more than paper records, you’ll be relied on even more to ensure that you know the computer software and how to ensure both privacy practices and EHR security.
The career outlook for registered health information technicians varies from year to year. Between 2016 and 2026, job growth for people in this profession was predicted to increase by 13%; that is much faster than all other U.S. occupations. Overall, medical and health services managers may grow at an even higher rate of 20%.
In one state (California), health information technician job openings were predicted to grow by 16% between 2016 and 2016 - this is only a few percentage points lower than the national projection. Narrowing this growth down to one county (Orange County), the job growth of health information technicians was predicted to grow 15%, which was much faster than all other occupations in the county.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the employment of medical records and health information technicians was predicted to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029; a slight drop from the 2016-2026 decade. One factor that drives this growth includes the U.S. population getting older, moving into care facilities, and needing more medical care. This means that health information technicians will have to organize and manage the health data for this generation, which leads to reimbursement claims from insurance companies.
Advancing From Here
When you begin considering how you want to climb the health information technician or management career ladder, you need to consider the education and experience you have before you decide which position you’re going to apply for. These positions include clinical documentation specialist (you need a bachelor’s degree), health data analyst (bachelor’s and experience), healthcare security and privacy specialist (bachelor’s degree or higher and healthcare administration experience), health information management director (a graduate degree is definitely preferred, along with significant experience).
In general, what you will most need to advance, if you have only earned an associate degree, is more education or education relevant to the position you most want to hold. If you want to enter management, a bachelor’s degree in management or a master’s with a specialization in healthcare administration might provide you with the boost you need to get you there.
Working in a healthcare organization as a health information professional allows you to enter the workforce in a position that is going to remain necessary. While you won’t provide direct patient care, you are a part of a patient healthcare team. And, as you gain more experience and time in your position, you may find you are filling a leadership role.
Your role in the healthcare industry makes you one of the thousands of workers responsible for updating software and developing new networks. If you have any previous experience in IT, you’ll be an attractive applicant.
- Health Technician - Military: This position exists within arms of the military, such as the Air Force National Guard. You’ll be required to act as the functional expert for issues relating to health management programs within specific medical facilities devoted to care for military members. Such issues affect individual medical readiness and the personal fitness of the Guard member for their ability to be deployed.
- Health Information Technician: Some of these positions will cover normal hours while others may require night and weekends. Any time the hospital is open, information specialists are often working. Your responsibilities may include monitoring specific departments, such as the radiology Information Systems order queue or scheduling diagnostic exams such as CT, MRI, US, and plain films. You may also scan outside reports into PACS and meet with families and patients to discuss different types of medical information.
- Medical Records Technician (Outpatient Coder): Responsibilities in this position include reviewing and auditing all outpatient encounters to verify that documentation and coding assignments provided by healthcare providers are correct. You’ll also validate the primary diagnosis code by using the definition of the condition as per industry standard.
- Health Information Management Technician: In this position, you are responsible for carrying out routine releases of health information in compliance with the company’s policy and all state and federal laws. You also review and analyze health information using electronic health record tools, looking for provider completion and any deficiencies in the records, complying with the Joint Commission, CMS, medical staff rules and regulations, state licensing agencies, and HIMS Department standards.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Where do health information technology professionals work?
Health information technology professionals work in hospitals, medical facilities, doctors' offices, outpatient clinics, insurance companies, rehabilitation centers, and government agencies.
What is the job outlook for health information technicians?
The number of health information technician jobs will increase by 9% by 2030.
What skills does a health information technician need?
Health information technicians need to have a strong attention to detail, interpersonal communication, and high ethics. Health information technicians need to have medical data entry skills, computer software support skills, and follow regulatory compliance.
How long does it take to become a health information technician?
Most health information technology programs take around 2 years to complete.
Do you need to know medical coding to work as a health information technician?
Health information technicians need to perform medical record coding as part of their jobs. Medical coding will be taught in your health information technology programs.
Healthcare Career Paths