Health information technology is one of only a few health-related careers where individuals can work in the medical field without having patient contact. Instead, these professionals work in office settings doing clerical work. Degree programs are designed to prepare students to work as health information technicians, which are specialists who process medical records in hospitals, physicians' offices, clinics and home healthcare agencies. All that is needed for admission is a high school diploma or equivalent.
Associate Degree of Health Information Technology
An associate of health information technology program curricula might include supervised clinical experiences so students can gain hands-on expertise. Students might also take courses to prepare for certification exams. Additionally, students commonly develop professional skills in business communications, critical thinking and problem solving. Some courses may be offered online. Typical program courses may include:
- Medical terminology
- Coding and reimbursement
- Health information management
- Medical insurance and reimbursement methodologies
- Legal aspects in health information
- Computerized health information systems
Popular Career Options
Graduates may find positions available in hospitals, physician's offices, managed care facilities and other healthcare institutions. Common career titles can include:
- Medical records technician
- Health information technician
- Coding specialist
- Medical coder
- Data analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Medical records and health information technicians are predicted to see a 15% growth in employment from 2014-2024, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual wage for these workers was $37,110 in May 2015. The industry with the highest level of employment was general medical and surgical hospitals, while the top-paying industry was pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing.
Continuing Education Info
Graduates of these associate's degree programs can start work immediately or pursue further education. Earning bachelor's or master's degrees, along with professional certifications, can qualify medical records and health information technicians for managerial positions in the field. Gaining experience and advanced specialty certifications can also enhance employment opportunities. Although certification is voluntary, most employers prefer to hire technicians who are certified.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential to program graduates who pass written examinations. Other associations that offer credentialing include the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) and the Board of Medical Specialty Coding & Compliance (BMSC). The PAHCS and the BMSC both offer specialty coding certifications.
Students who earn an associate of health information technology degree will take courses such as medical terminology, coding and reimbursement, and health information management. Upon graduation, graduates have the option to seek voluntary certification from professional organizations to increase employment prospects.