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How to Become a Registered Health Information Administrator

Learn how to become a registered health information administrator. Research the education and career requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in health information administration.

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  • 0:02 Career Information
  • 1:03 Career Requirements
  • 1:35 Job Steps to Follow

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Career Information

The role of a registered health information administrator (RHIA) is to ensure that health records are kept according to medical laws and ethics. Although RHIAs may manage some paper records, many patient records are electronic or will be soon, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. In addition, RHIAs use information technology to ensure that patient information is properly documented and moves efficiently among medical personnel. These professionals may also manage other staff members.

RHIAs, like other types of medical and health services managers, usually work full-time during normal business hours. They complete their work primarily in office settings, utilizing computers, phones, and paperwork to ensure compliance. Much of such administrators' work can be done independently. A small risk of exposure to infectious diseases is present for all individuals who work in medical care settings.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is standard
Degree Field Health information management
Certification AHIMA awards the RHIA credential
Experience Entry level; no experience necessary
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, knowledge of federal and state health care privacy laws, medical terminology, medical records management software
Salary (2015) $48,455 (median for all RHIAs)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Health Information Association, PayScale.com.

A bachelor's degree in health information management is a standard requirement for RHIA jobs. There is RHIA certification available, and no work experience is necessary for this role. Strong verbal and written communication skills along with knowledge of federal and state health care privacy laws, medical terminology, and medical records management software are needed. In January 2016, the median salary for RHIAs was $48,730, according to PayScale.com.

Job Steps to Follow

To become an RHIA, take the following steps:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective RHIAs must complete a bachelor's program in health information management accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). These programs are available in campus-based and online formats.

In many cases, students must complete two years of prerequisite coursework or an approved associate's program before applying to health information management bachelor's programs. Prerequisite topics include human anatomy, biology, psychology and computer applications. The core health information management curriculum covers medical ethics, medical law, privacy law, data analysis and electronic records management.

To better succeed at this step, complete an internship. Enrolling in an internship or practicum is one way to gain experience while earning a bachelor's degree. These field experiences are often included in bachelor's programs. Also, you should build leadership skills. In some cases, RHIAs have staff management responsibilities. With courses such as professional communication and human resource management, candidates can learn to delegate tasks when necessary and improve their listening skills.

Step 2: Become Certified

After earning a CAHIIM-accredited bachelor's degree, students can pursue the RHIA credential. To earn this designation, individuals must pass a 180-question exam that covers organization and management, health data management and information technology systems.

Be sure to prepare for the exam. AHIMA offers a practice test and an exam preparation guide, as well as a list of recommended study resources. Applicants may increase their chances of success by preparing for the exam.

Step 3: Continue Education

RHIAs are required to recertify every two years by earning 30 continuing education units. Continuing education activities include publishing and presenting materials relevant to the field, attending AHIMA meetings or completing relevant college coursework.

Those who wish to advance in the field should consider pursuing a graduate degree. With combined education and experience, RHIAs can be promoted to top administrator. Top administrators often have a team of administrators working under their supervision.

To summarize, RHIAs should hold a bachelor's degree in health information management and pursue the RHIA credential from AHIMA.

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