Aspiring health information technicians and medical billing and coding specialists may consider pursuing a two-year associate's degree in health information technology. Some associate's program can lead to certification as a professional health information technician. Those who want to work with patient information, healthcare data, health statistics, and information systems at the management level might consider enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in health information management. Earning a bachelor's degree may prepare students for the registered health information administrator certification. Master's and doctoral degrees in health information technology also exist for aspiring directors, administrators, professors, and researchers.
A high school diploma or GED is generally required for admissions into undergraduate programs. Many bachelor's programs require students to complete general education or specified prerequisite courses before applying. Admission to graduate programs is very competitive. Candidates typically need to have a high undergraduate GPA and may need to submit letters of recommendation, essays, and acceptable GRE or MCAT scores. Additionally, a bachelor's degree is required for a master's program, while a master's degree is required for a doctorate. Programs may require an internship or clinical research.
Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology
This degree program prepares graduates for entry-level careers as health information technicians. Program curriculum blends information technology and health sciences coursework. Students are taught how to use technology and information systems to maintain, evaluate and secure the information stored in health records. Additionally, they learn about classification, reimbursement systems, and diagnostic codes. Sample courses include the following:
- Healthcare statistics & data
- Health data structure & content
- Systems of coding & classification
- Human anatomy & physiology
- Medical billing processes
Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
College programs culminating in a bachelor's degree in health information management train students in health information systems, coding, classification, and management principles. Program curriculum focuses on policies, organization, systems management, and problem-solving. Some courses may include:
- Healthcare data analysis
- Coding and reimbursement process
- Health information analysis
- Fiscal management
- Health informatics
Master of Science in Health Information Technology
Master's degree programs are designed for those seeking careers as health informatics executives. Skills gained include strategic resource planning, data analysis, leadership, decision making, and personnel management. The curriculum expands into management, information technology systems, applied health informatics, and healthcare privacy laws. Courses may include:
- Database management
- Data analysis
- Information systems security
- Operational management
- Health information management
Ph.D. in Health Information Technology
Doctoral candidates study how health information can be analyzed, stored, and accessed using efficient and secure systems to aid in research studies and provide higher quality care to patients. Candidates study research informatics, data integrity, and data standards. A Ph.D. program prepares graduates for roles of leadership in medical research and academia, evaluating, implementing, and developing applications for use in clinical informatics. A list of possible courses follows:
- Methods in biostatistics
- Clinical research
- Database management systems
- Information security
- Life cycle of information systems
Career options available to associate degree graduates include medical coder, medical records technician, medical transcriptionist, and health data analyst. A graduate with a bachelor's degree in health information management may find a position in a variety of settings managing, analyzing and gathering healthcare information. Graduates may work for hospitals, law firms, government agencies, or consulting and research companies. Individuals holding a master's or doctoral degree have more opportunities for careers, such as health informatics researcher. Some other positions available include:
- Corporate health information director
- Medical claims analyst
- Clinical research trials associate
- Data quality manager
- Document imaging manager
- Public health information officer
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a promising outlook for health information technicians, with jobs expected to increase by 15% from 2014-2024. The healthcare industry is depending more on computer databases to store medical information, increasing the need for health information technicians. The Bureau lists median annual earnings for health information technicians as $37,110 in May 2015.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Individuals with a 2-year degree in health information technology may qualify to take the Registered Health Information Technician exam. The American Health Information Management Association administers this certification. Those interested in earning a bachelor's degree may consider enrolling in a healthcare information management or health information administration program.
Those holding a bachelor's degree or higher may pursue certification as Registered Health Information Administrators through the American Health Information Management Association. Individuals seeking a graduate-level college degree may consider enrolling in a master's in health information technology program.
Both undergraduate and graduate education in health information technology teaches students about different tools and technologies used in a variety of healthcare and health science careers, as well as prepare them for professional certification.