Online associate's degree programs in health information management are widely available at mostly for-profit, private institutions. Some schools offer optional on-campus study mixed with online classes, clinical rotations and seminars. The associate's degree program also may include simulated office experiences that individuals can complete from home. Some programs may require applicants to have a background in medical terminology, as well as complete certain biology classes prior to admission. Students explore topics like anatomy, physiology, medical administration, data management and medical terminologies. Programs may train students to take the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam. Some programs may also allow for transfer to a bachelor's degree program in health information management.
Associate's Degree in Health Information Management
Normal enrollment requirements in a health information management associate's degree program include an overall minimum GPA (grade point average) that must be maintained throughout the program, a physical exam with proof of immunization, drug testing and formal application acceptance. Some schools require prerequisite coursework in topics such as biology and medical terminology. Programs related to health information management include medical records and medical coding.
Program Information and Requirements
Depending on a student's part-time or full-time schedule, these programs take approximately seven semesters, or 2-3 years, to complete. Online courses can usually be accessed at any time; however, some schools have a set schedule for virtual class attendance.
Computer literacy and experience with word processing and spreadsheet programs are usually suggested. Students must also have access to a personal computer and Internet Service Provider (ISP) to access online programs.
Some common online courses of study in these programs focus on medical terminology, classification, coding and quality management. Although course requirements vary by program, a minimum amount of credit hours, general education courses and classes in these skills are normally required for graduation, as well as for eventual employment and certification.
CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) Medical Coding
A CPT course introduces classification, along with coding systems and procedures. Rules, methodology, principles and quality issues related to reimbursement are also a heavy concentration.
ICD (International Classification of Diseases) Medical Coding
Application and coding of payments for diagnoses and procedures, as well as acute, ambulatory and managed care, are covered in this class. Students study billing service principles and conventions. Analyzing and sequencing medical records and identifying coding data elements are among the skills emphasized.
This course teaches the language of medicine, emphasizing word roots, prefixes, suffixes, abbreviations and terminology of physiological and anatomical human body systems. Diagnostic, anatomic, symptomatic and eponymic disease terms are also covered.
Health Care Quality and Improvement
Using the basic philosophy of health care organizational performance, its purpose and processes, this course teaches students how to apply a variety of tools; these include data collection, display and analysis, risk and utilization management, assessment, credentialing and case review. Accreditation requirements and regulatory guidelines are also covered.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for medical records and health information technicians was projected to experience a rapid 15% growth rate between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The overall average salary for a health information or medical records technician in 2015 was $40,430. Those working in scientific, technical and professional services had the highest average salary in 2015, earning approximately $52,940 annually; health information technicians in doctors' offices had an average of $34,940, as reported by the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Successful completion of a health care information management associate's degree program qualifies students to take the National Certification Examination of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Upon successful passing of the exam, the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential is awarded. Continuing education units are required to maintain this certification.
The AHIMA (www.ahima.org) also offers exams for other health management-related certifications, including Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), Certified Coding Specialist - Physician-based (CCS-P), Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) and Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS).
Online associate's degree programs in health information management include courses in medical terminology, medical coding and health care quality and improvement to prepare students for careers as health information or medical records technicians. Graduates can pursue professional credentials and certifications to advance their careers.