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How To Become A Health Information Technician

How To Become A Health Information Technician

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health information technician

Health Information Technicians: A Quick Look
Median Salary $39,340 per annum
Entry-level education Certificate/Diploma
On-the-job training No
Primary employers Hospitals
Number of positions (U.S.) 179,500
Job Growth (2010-2020) 21% (Faster than national average)
New positions (2010-2020) +37,700

What Does A Health Information Technician Do?

Health information technicians, or HITs, are trained medical data managers. Many different kinds of organizations rely on these skilled professionals to keep operations running smoothly. Read more.

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median health information technology salary was $39,340 in 2012. Read more.

Becoming A Health Information Technician

The entry level of educational attainment for health information technicians is the 2-year associate’s degree. Ambitious technicians may want to earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree. Read more.

CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF THE TOP HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SCHOOLS IN YOUR AREA

Job Outlook

The job outlook for health information technicians is better than the average for all occupations. Positions are expected to grow by 21 percent through the end of the decade, thanks to demographic trends and the expanding complexity of health IT systems. Read more.

Health Information Technician Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for HITs was about $34,000 per year in 2012. The best pay is in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing sector, with salaries up to $66,000 a year—about $15,000 more than any other sector. Health information technicians usually work full-time, and this may include night and weekend shifts. A majority of workers receive benefits.

How To Become A Health Information Technician

How Long Does It Take To Become A Health Information Technician?

It takes 2 years to earn an associate's degree for entry-level work in health information technology. Prospective HITs should think about the level of responsibility they want to take on, their desired pay, and the degree of job flexibility they would most enjoy. Those looking for more responsibility, managerial salaries or enhanced mobility between health information technology careers might consider earning at least a bachelor's degree. Having a baccalaureate education on one's resume opens up positions like departmental director, project manager, and chief privacy officer. An associate's degree goes a long way, too. Associate-qualified HITs are eligible to apply for the entry-level AHIMA national certification. They may work as, for instance, data analysts, disease registrars, and abstractors. Moreover, in many settings there are leadership opportunities open to experienced technicians even without an advanced degree. Some students choose to go on to graduate school to leverage their career potential with an advanced skill set applicable not only to healthcare but also business, information technology, and science.

Educational Requirements

Most employers expect health information technicians to have at least an associate's degree in health information technology, as well as current professional certification with AHIMA, the American Health Information Management Association. All programs should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). HIT programs focus on a combination of the biomedical sciences, information technology and healthcare administration. Successful students become knowledgeable in areas like medical terminology, statistics, research methods, International Classification of Diseases (ICD) systems, methods of reimbursement, liability, and ethics. We've provided a list of top schools in your area with certified Health Information Technology degrees here.

Certification

National certification is not mandatory, but it is common for employers to require applicants to either have current certification or to be eligible for the status. Health information technology certification is available through AHIMA. This entity issues both entry-level and advanced credentials to graduates of accredited programs who pass its qualifying exams. Successful applicants can subsequently use the Registered Health Information Technician, or RHIT, title. It's okay to take the test multiple times to earn a passing score. Among the most common specialist certifications offered by AHIMA are the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credentials.

Licensing

HITs don't need to be licensed with states, but they must uphold the law in their work. An organization's legal health record is subject to state and federal laws, so all HITs should become familiar with the legal parameters of their job description ahead of time.

Health information technician job description

Health information technicians, or HITs, are medical records experts employed at the intersection of healthcare and the IT sector. Health information technicians organize and protect massive amounts of procedural data that enable healthcare organizations to function. HITs work mainly with electronic health records stored on computers. There is relatively little patient contact, but plenty of interaction with other medical professionals, so they need good communication and interpersonal skills. The best technicians have an excellent grasp of organizational policies like security assurance, patient confidentiality, and medico-legal precautions. Today, there is more medical data being collected than ever before. All this patient information is the basis for organizational management, from budget and staffing decisions to reimbursement and liability control. In this environment, HITs help keep facilities running smoothly, managing data on behalf of payers, administrators and physicians. All healthcare providers rely on accurate and updated medical data to treat patients and stay out of legal trouble. HITs can work in any setting where patient data is regularly amassed, such as hospitals, physician offices, nursing homes, HMOs, mental health facilities, medicine testing companies, prisons, government, and more.

Duties

On a given shift, a health information technician may:
  • Collect and organize accurate patient records
  • Collaborate with physicians to complete data sets
  • Protect integrity of sensitive information
  • Enter and code patient data
  • Conduct data audits for quality assurance
  • Perform data analysis for research reports
  • Compile Diagnosis-Related Groups (DRGs)
  • Collaborate with lawyers, insurers and other authorized third-parties
  • Handle administrative duties like transcription and billing
  • Supervise and train novice technicians

Alternative Job Titles

Health information technicians work under many different job titles. Some of the most common ones are:
  • (Electronic) medical records technician
  • Reimbursement specialist
  • Data quality coordinator
  • Abstractor
  • Medical coder
  • Charge master auditor
  • Documentation specialist
  • Information access/disclosure specialist

Job Outlook

The U.S. BLS says HIT jobs will grow by 21 percent by 2020, representing nearly 40,000 new positions. The field's outlook will benefit from the growth of the medical industry in general, as well as the increasing integration of information technologies in healthcare. The rapid evolution of health IT is driving demand for tech-savvy technicians who can effectively manipulate emerging HIT technologies such as predictive modeling and imaging informatics.

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