What Are Health Information Technicians?
Health information technicians are responsible for ensuring that patient records -- whether electronic- or paper-based -- are accurate, accessible, complete, and compliant with legal guidelines. Their job duties include organizing and maintaining the information found in clinical databases and registries, reviewing and tracking patient records, ensuring that there are no security breaches in patient record systems, and electronically recording patient data so it can be easily stored and accessed. For more information, visit our health information technician career page.
Health Information Technician Program Information
Health information technology programs are offered at public and private institutions. Students may have the option of obtaining their credential completely online or on campus, and, in some cases, they may be able to enroll in a hybrid program that combines both online and on-campus class options. Regardless of how the class content is delivered, students can expect to have the opportunity to gain the knowledge and technical skills they need to pursue a career in health information technology.
Maintaining proper health records is imperative for delivering quality care to patients. Health information technology programs prepare students for this vital role in the healthcare industry by teaching them the theory and practice behind collecting, analyzing, monitoring, and maintaining healthcare data. In addition, students are taught how to ensure the integrity of patient information, as well as how healthcare organizations can comply with state and federal healthcare mandates.
Health Information Technician Program Types
Those interested in pursuing a career in health information technology can enroll in the following types of programs.
- Certificate: Health information technology certificate programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate level. These programs are typically shorter in length than degree programs and focus on teaching core skills in the field without the addition of general education courses. Undergrad certificates may be a good option for those who want to pursue employment as quickly as possible, while graduate certificates can help augment a health or IT professional's existing skillset.
- Associate Degree: Students enrolled in health information technology associate degree programs can generally expect to complete their degrees within two years. This program can help prepare students for entry-level positions in the health information technology field, giving them a solid foundation on how to create and maintain accurate medical records.
- Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree in health information technology is designed to prepare students for the rigors of the field, and can be used as a stepping stone for those who want to eventually pursue management positions or further their education. Students in this program learn about information security, data integrity, information system management, and legal compliance. This degree can generally be completed within four years.
These health information technician programs also help to prepare students to pass professional certification exams that may help candidates land a job in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employers require job candidates to earn certifications such as Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT).
Health Information Technician Course Descriptions
Since every program is different, the courses that are taught at health information technology schools vary. However, the following health information technology courses can generally be found in the core curriculum.
- Introduction to Medical Terminology: This course gives students an overview of the human body and medical conditions, as well as medical procedures and common medical abbreviations. In addition, students also learn about frequently prescribed medications in healthcare facilities.
- Medical Coding: This class familiarizes students with basic medical coding principles and the guidelines that healthcare facilities use when coding outpatient and inpatient data.
- Anatomy and Physiology: Students in this course can expect to learn about the systems of the human body, including the muscular, nervous, skeletal and endocrine systems.
- Legal Issues in Healthcare Information: This class explores the regulatory and legal issues that healthcare providers face, and how medical records must be maintained in order to be compliant with current laws. Students can expect to learn about the legislative and judicial process, the specific laws that govern the healthcare industry, and possible civil liability that healthcare facilities may be vulnerable to.
Health Information Technician Specialties
Students interested in pursuing the health information technology field may choose to enroll in a program that prepares them for a specialized sector of the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, examples of these specialties include:
- Cancer registrar
- Medical coder
Related Career Options
Those looking at health information technology schools and programs may also be interested in pursuing an education that could lead to related careers, such as:
- Health Information Manager: Health information managers oversee efforts to maintain patient records and devise strategies to ensure they remain secure. These professionals must be knowledgeable of the state and federal laws that govern the industry and stay up to speed on the latest technological trends.
- Medical Transcriptionist: Medical transcriptionists are responsible for creating patient documents, such as medical histories and discharge summaries. These professionals listen to recorded dictation made by health professionals and transcribe the information into written medical records. Transcriptionists are required to be well-versed in speech recognition software, medical abbreviations and jargon, and the guidelines required to ensure patient confidentiality.
Those who are interested in pursuing these related careers may be required to obtain additional education, training, licensure, or certification in order to find employment.
Links to Sources and Associations
Visit the following websites to learn more about the health information technology field:
American Health Information Management Association, http://www.ahima.org/
American Medical Informatics Association, http://www.amia.org/
Medical and Health Services Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
eHealth Initiative, http://www.ehidc.org/
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, http://www.himss.org/
International Federation of Health Records Organizations, http://www.ifhima.org/