People working in medical and health information technology don't necessarily need any formal education. A number of certification options exist, including those demonstrating proficiency in a certain specialty. Some, such as the Certified Tumor Register designation, require completion of an associate's degree.
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Medical records and health information technicians organize patient health files and information, including medical histories, examination records, treatment information and diagnostic test results. They may choose to specialize in a single area of health information technology, such as coding, in which they code patient information to send to insurance companies for reimbursement, or cancer registry, which means that they maintain records specifically for cancer patients. Medical records and health information technicians may choose to complete the requirements for multiple specializations to enhance their job prospects and skillsets.
|Career Field||Medical Records and Health Information Technicians|
|Required Education||Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in medical and health information technology, depending on the organization offering certification|
|Additional Requirements||Continuing education required by most organizations|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||15%|
|Median Salary (2015)||$37,110|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Certification Options in Medical and Health Information Technology
Certification for medical records and health information technicians is available from a number of different professional organizations, including the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA). Earning certification is usually optional, but employers may prefer to hire certified technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
American Health Information Management Association
The AHIMA offers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation. This certification is suitable for all medical and health information technicians, including those who specialize in coding or cancer registry. To qualify to sit for the RHIT exam, a person must have earned an associate's degree from a health information management program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. Graduates of foreign HIM programs may qualify if the program is accredited by an AHIMA-approved organization.
The RHIT exam contains 150 multiple-choice questions and lasts 3.5 hours. Candidates must submit an application along with transcripts, resume and an application fee. Those who do not pass the exam must wait at least 45 days before retesting. Certification must be renewed every two years by earning a minimum of 20 continuing education units (CEUs) during the 2-year period.
American Academy of Professional Coders
The AAPC offers several different medical coding certifications, including the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Professional Coder - Hospital (CPC-H), Certified Professional Coder - Payer (CPC-P) and Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC), as well as a number of different specialty medical coding designations. Each certification exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and takes five hours and 40 minutes to complete. Although the AAPC does not always have formal requirements to sit for one of their certification exams, candidates are encouraged to have at least an associate's degree and at least two years of medical coding experience. Certification holders are required to maintain current membership with the AAPC and earn a certain number of CEUs every two years to maintain certification.
National Cancer Registrars Association
The Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) designation is offered by the NCRA for health information technicians who work with the records of cancer patients. To be eligible to take the certification exam, a person must have an associate's degree and either experience working in the cancer registry field or a certificate in an NCRA-accredited program. CTR candidates are given 4.5 hours to complete a total of 250 multiple-choice questions. To maintain certification, CTRs must pay an annual maintenance fee and submit CEUs every two years.
Career Outlook for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
According to the BLS, medical records and health information technicians were predicted to see a 15% growth in employment opportunities from 2014-2024. This above-average growth stemmed from an aging population and a greater need for cancer-related health information services. Medical records and health information technicians earned a median annual salary of $37,110 in 2015, per BLS.
To summarize, certification in medical and health information technology normally isn't required, but may be preferred by some employers. Certification options exist for general medical health technicians, as well as for those wishing to specialize in coding or a particular area of health care.