Health information technology is a growing field for those who want to work in the healthcare industry managing patient records and data. The need for health information technicians is growing as more hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s office go “online” with their medical information. New federal regulations are requiring all healthcare records to be digitally inputted by a certain date in the future, so many organizations are hurrying to meet these requirements by hiring more health information technicians.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the job duties for health information technicians as follows:
• Document patient health information such as medical history, current issues, and test results
• Review patient records for accuracy
• Maintain registries and databases for physicians and hospitals
• Perform quality assessments for patient outcomes
• Use software and programs to assign codes for data analysis and insurance reimbursement
• Record data for storage and reporting
• Ensure protection of patient confidentiality
Health information technicians may work in specialized areas of health care or may work for a large hospital handling all types of medical information.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39 percent of health information technicians worked in hospital settings in 2010. Hospitals are the largest employer of health information technicians because hospitals must interface with many different doctors about patient care. Another 23 percent of health information technicians worked directly for doctors or clinics. Seven percent of health information technicians worked in nursing homes or care facilities, and three percent worked in home health care services.
The median annual salary for health information technicians was $32,350 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salary a health information technician earns depends largely on his or her location and the organization for which the technician works. The lowest ten percent of health information technicians earned $21,240 or less, while the highest-paid ten percent earned $53,430 or more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the projected job growth for health information technicians between 2010 and 2020 will be 21 percent. This faster-than-average job growth will be fueled by the need for more health record management for an aging population. Jobs will be plentiful in this field for the foreseeable future. The more experience and areas of expertise a health information technician has, the more competitive he or she will be in finding jobs with good salaries and benefits.
While a high school diploma is the only requirement for most health information technician jobs, many employers do require certification, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some health information technicians obtain certificates or two-year diplomas from vocational schools or community colleges.
Certification can be obtained from various organizations; some health information technicians specialize in coding, for example, and seek certification as a Registered Health Information Technician or RHIT, or a Certified Tumor Registrar CTR. There are over a dozen specialty coding certifications that health information technicians can obtain; the more certifications a health technician has, the more likely it is that they will be able to find competitive jobs.
States do not usually require certification for a person to work in the health information technician field. Many health information technicians begin in entry-level positions and move up as they obtain more certifications from various agencies. Some schools include preparation for certification testing as part of their curriculum.
Health information technicians are an unseen but vital part of the healthcare system. Without health information technicians, it would be difficult for doctors to obtain the information they need to treat patients safely and effectively. It would also be difficult for doctors to get paid, since they rely on coding specialists to submit proper paperwork to insurance companies. If you have good attention to detail and do not mind office environments, a health information technician job might be one in which you would do well.