According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical records and health information technicians typically need some kind of postsecondary education, which may be a certificate or an associate's degree. Both fully online and hybrid format associate's degree programs are available. Some programs may require an on-site externship at a local health facility.
Professional certification in this career is voluntary, but preferred by many employers. Aspiring health information technicians should seek programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
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Associate of Health Information Technology (HIT) Degree
In an online Associate of Science in Health Information Technology degree program, students learn about healthcare industry standards as they relate to electronic medical records (EMR), medical coding and the management and storage of patient health information. This field of study combines science and technology and is one of the few health-related occupations that does not require hands-on patient care.
Program Information and Requirements
Most online programs can be finished in a little less than two years. Additionally, while the coursework may be completed solely online, some programs may require an on-site externship to gain professional experience before graduation. Online programs typically allow access to classes through the school's software platform where students may complete assignments and exams, participate in interactive learning activities and communicate with instructors.
Associate's degree programs in health information technology train students in the details of medical coding and billing, data analysis, file management, electronic health records and patient confidentiality. General education courses vary depending upon the program, but may include classes in English, math, communications, humanities and social science. Common core classes involve technology as well as medical and health information courses.
Introduction to Health Information Management
Students gain an understanding about the information contained in medical records and which medical professionals contribute to health information. Additionally, students learn the basics of the health information technician profession and begin to develop rudimentary knowledge about organizing and storing health information.
Healthcare Information Technologies
In this course, students learn the history of electronic health records (EHR) as well as the associated trends, challenges and ongoing management of health systems. Various technology and software applications as they relate to different healthcare disciplines are also explored.
HIT Medical Terminology
Students build their medical vocabulary while learning how to identify word parts based on Latin and Greek origins as well as prefixes and suffixes. Spelling and pronunciation is typically emphasized, and the major body systems are covered.
HIT Legal and Ethical Issues
There are many compliance laws in the field of HIT. In this course, students gain an understanding of medical ethics and the legal issues that health information professionals must deal with on an ongoing basis, such as patient confidentiality and how to protect it.
Medical and Procedural Coding
In this course, students learn the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) to code medical records in an accurate and up-to-date manner. Students must also understand the current coding guidelines for both outpatient and in-patient settings.
With an associate's degree in health information technology, graduates may find work in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities as medical records and health information technicians. The BLS predicted that employment of medical records and health information technicians would increase 15%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that as of May 2015, they earned a median annual wage of $37,110.
Continuing Education Information
According to the BLS, employers generally prefer to hire applicants who have the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential, which is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). To ensure proper preparation for the credentialing exam, the degree program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Additional education may be necessary for career advancement, such as a bachelor's, master's or specialty certification. One such certification is the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credential, which typically requires the minimum of an associate's degree and several years of experience in the field.
In online associate's degrees in health information technologies, students are introduced the methods used to properly manage patients' medical data. When they finish, they can improve their odds of getting a job in a medical facility by earning a professional certification in the field.