Guide to College Majors in Health Information Technology
What is Health Information Technology?
When someone breaks an arm, undergoes heart surgery, receives medicine to treat a sore throat, or simply gets his yearly physical, a record of his physician's treatments, observations, and notes is created and saved. His medical record includes information concerning his symptoms and medical history, previous medical exam reports, x-ray and laboratory test results, doctors' diagnoses, and a list of past treatment plans. This information is crucial to providing quality healthcare.
The health information technology field employs professionals and technicians who are responsible for the organization of a patient's medical record. Health information technicians begin this assembly process by verifying that a patient's initial medical charts are complete. All forms must be completed, identified, and signed. Then, all this information must be entered into a computer. Additionally, health information professionals must regularly communicate with physicians to ensure accuracy, clarify diagnoses, and obtain any supplementary information needed to update a patient's file.
Until very recently, all medical records were paper documents. Complex information for millions of patients was managed exclusively with files, folders, and forms. However, a new government initiative aims to apply the same sophisticated technology we use for actual healthcare towards managing and utilizing health information.
Over the next 10 years, this initiative intends to transfer the health information technology field to a sophisticated database matrix. This national push for advanced health information technology is combined with an enormous need for qualified healthcare professionals - making this a smart career move indeed.
Trends for Health Information Technology Careers
Projections indicate that career opportunities in health information technology are tremendous. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities for health IT professionals will be highly favorable in the coming years. This field is projected to grow much faster than average. Additionally, experts speculate that many new health information technicians will find employment in nursing centers, outpatient care facilities, other home medical services, and physicians' offices.
Preparing for Health Information Technology School
Formal training is essential for this fast-paced career. Specialists in health information technology rely heavily upon computer, medical, and management knowledge. Quality training and skills are best developed in a healthcare IT program that uses the latest health information technology.
First, figure out if you have the right personality traits for this career. Successful health information professionals pay attention to detail, excel at organization, and can efficiently process and track large amounts of information. Additionally, this group of healthcare professionals has a sincere interest in healthcare and medical issues. Potential students should consider their own natural talents and inclinations to ensure that they have or can develop these characteristics.
If you're still in high school, be sure to take as many relevant courses as you can. A degree in this healthcare field will definitely involve thorough and advanced studies of information technology programs, medicine, health insurance, biology, and mathematics. Take as many advanced placement computer, math, and science courses as possible.
A third way to prepare for a health information technology degree program is to spend time discussing this career field with a current healthcare professional. Potential students should seize any opportunity to shadow current professionals during a typical workday. Follow a healthcare information technician around for a day to see what your future career could hold. Discussing your interest in health IT with a professional is a valuable way to receive advice, guidance, and insight into the field. Ask questions about training, opportunities for career advancement, and education requirements.
Finally, you're ready to choose a degree program. Compare and contrast several programs, and don't forget online colleges. Think about what you hope to get out of a program. If some programs do not cover an aspect of health information technology that is of particular interest to you, it will make choosing a school an easier process.
It is important to understand the various options and educational paths available. By using this research as a catalyst, you'll also be able to generate a list of questions to ask admissions counselors that will help you selecting the best possible degree program. The more information you can gather about different health IT program options, the better informed his decision will be.
Career Education in Health Information Technology
College degree programs in health information technology provide students with the skills and training to find career opportunities in this fast-growing field of healthcare. Whether you're interested in gaining entry-level experience or you're a health IT professional seeking to advance your skills, college degrees offer many worthwhile possibilities.
Students interested in pursuing a degree in health information technology will find a broad variety of options, depending on their eventual career goals. And unlike most healthcare training programs, many schools offer healthcare IT degrees online, since hands-on clinical training is not always necessary for this career. By taking courses online, health information technology students obtain a thorough, technologically advanced education at their own convenience. Online health information technology degree programs are in many cases an advantage over traditional degree programs, enabling students to get hands-on training in the latest computer management systems. Students participate in online tutorials, web seminars, and virtual interactive training. Health information technology students who participate in online degree programs have the flexibility of tailoring their own schedules and course loads to mesh with existing commitments to jobs and family.
Certificate Programs in Health Information Technology
Earning a certificate in health information technology or medical coding is an attractive option for students seeking entry-level jobs. In this field, certificate programs are primarily designed for new students seeking an introductory educational experience. Health IT certificate programs cover medical terminology, health insurance information, business aspects of healthcare, and intense study of coding systems.
Certificate programs encourage students to develop the skills that are necessary to assist healthcare professionals in accurately maintaining, billing, and filing various healthcare documents. In many health IT certificate programs, students can opt to transfer completed courses to a more advanced degree program. Certificate programs vary; potential students should discuss particular degree programs with school admissions counselors.
Associate Degrees in Health Information Technology
For many careers in health information technology, an associate degree is the foundation for obtaining entry-level jobs. Associate's degree programs focus on information management, computer technology, medical procedure and billing, health insurance, and healthcare administration. It is common for students to return to school after a few years of work experience, and many health information technology programs allow students to transfer AS credit towards a bachelor's degree program. Completing an associate degree program is a very good opportunity for students to gain practical, on-the-job experience before committing to a more lengthy degree program.
Bachelor's Degrees in Health Information Technology
Health information technology bachelor's degree programs prepare students for careers in healthcare information administration and management. For most of these higher-level career paths, a bachelor's degree is the mandatory starting point. Courses cover science, medicine, business, information management, technology, health insurance information, and other mathematical concepts that are necessary for successfully managing healthcare facilities. Pursuing a health IT bachelor's degree is a challenging endeavor that covers many different and important aspects of this field, and students should expect to commit four academic years to complete this degree program.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Health Information?
- A health information technician is responsible for reviewing medical charts to check for completion and accuracy. These professionals also generate reports and assign diagnosis codes to medical charts for insurance claims and data collection purposes. Health information technicians gather, analyze, and manage information so that healthcare providers can successfully care for patients.
Commonly, health information technicians work in hospitals, medical clinics, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, home care agencies, and nursing homes. Health information technicians assist health information administrators in managing and reviewing records, compiling data from records to develop various reports, and storing medical records.
Generally, these healthcare professionals work with computers and have little contact with patients. You can qualify for a position as an entry-level health information technician with an associate degree. In many cases, certification is required by the state. As technology advances, more employers will seek highly trained health information technicians to assist in the modernization of a healthcare facility's record management system.
- The medical coder's job is to review various medical documents provided by physicians. She then translates this information into appropriate numeric codes. She assigns and sequences diagnostic and procedural codes by using a standard healthcare coding system. Medical coders serve very important roles in the healthcare field.
This job combines the medical and business sides of healthcare. Financial reimbursement to healthcare professionals hinges upon the accurate and efficient work of the medical coder. Earning a certificate or an associate degree in medical coding qualifies students for entry-level positions. This job is a common entry point into the health IT career field and often serves as a catalyst for advancement opportunities within this sector of healthcare.
- Healthcare information managers oversee the business components of providing healthcare services. Health information administrators manage health information systems that house all medical documents, insurance information, and documentation for a health care facility.
It is common for health information administrators to work in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, medical clinics, and health maintenance organizations. Healthcare information administrators have at least a bachelor's degree and many have also earned a master's degree in healthcare information management. Advanced, experienced healthcare professionals who possess demonstrated skills and knowledge typically hold this position. Continued education is a crucial component to securing a career in healthcare information administration.
- Medical Secretary
A medical secretary primarily performs clerical and administrative functions that enable physicians and other medical professionals to work more efficiently. General responsibilities include transcribing dictation, generating and editing correspondence documents, and aiding physicians with various reports, speeches, articles, and conference proceedings. Medical secretaries may also provide technical support, update and maintain medical records, and handle arrangements for the hospitalization of patients. It is also important for a medical secretary to be familiar with health insurance rules, billing methods, and medical and laboratory procedures. As technology becomes more widespread in healthcare facilities, it will also become increasingly important for medical secretaries to continually update training and understanding of information management systems.
Certification, Licensure and Associations
When a student completes a health information technology degree program, he also needs to prepare for a certification exam. While different certifications require varying amounts of education, students will find that multiple opportunities to achieve certification exist, no matter how basic or advanced their degrees may be. When a health IT graduate earns appropriate credentials it validates her commitment to industry standards and professionalism - two commitments that are highly valued by all professional employers.
Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
The Certified Coding Associate (CCA) is an entry-level certification that is generally required for launching a career as a medical coder. Because the demand for top-notch coders is growing tremendously, this certification was created to designate qualified coders as suitable for employment. Making the decision to pursue this certification is wise for new health information technology graduates; often, CCA certification can be substituted for work experience in the pursuit of an entry-level coding job.
Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
To earn this credential, you must have an associate's degree and successfully pass the RHIT certification exam. This certification is reserved for health information technicians who can demonstrate the ability to ensure the quality of medical records. This is done by verifying completeness, accuracy, and properly entering information into computer systems. RHIT-certified professionals are also qualified to use computer programs to assemble and analyze patient information to improve patient care or cut financial costs. RHIT certification is a very significant credential that all professional health information technicians should strive to attain.
Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)
To become a Registered Health Information Administrator, you must hold a bachelor's degree and pass the RHIA certification exam. This credential denotes demonstrated skill in the collection, interpretation, and analysis of patient records. RHIA-credentialed professionals are also eligible to train for advanced managerial positions. It is common for RHIA professionals to play a significant part in all areas of a healthcare organization that use patient information in decision-making and operations. This is an important credential for students interested in upper-level health information technology careers.
Health Information Technology Associations and Certification Bodies
- American Academy of Professional Coders
- National Alliance for Health Information Technology
- National Association of Health Data Organizations
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
- Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems
- American Nursing Informatics Association
- American Medical Informatics Association
- National Institute for Health Care Management
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