Health information technicians are responsible for keeping patient records accurate, organised, accessible to doctors and most importantly, fully secure. A RHIT, or registered health information technician manages highly confidential medical records which can contain a patient’s diagnosis, treatments, insurance details and health certificates, as a such a RHIT salary can be considerably higher than a HIT salary, based on the added responsibility and checks required.
HIT Job Description And Requirements
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Without accurate patient medical records, a competent healthcare system is not really possible. Everything, from the moment a patient is admitted to a hospital to the moment the last follow-up appointment finishes, needs to be documented using medical coding by a a health information technician (HIT for short) or registered health information technologist (RHIT).
Those records are often very sensitive, and as such they need to be kept secure, but at the same time third-parties such as insurance providers, hospital administrators or researches need to be able to work with the data, whether it is as aggregated data or patient details for reimbursements or payments. As you can see, being a health information technologist is a challenging job with plenty of responsibilities and a strong set of requirements.
Academically, most HITs take a six month certificate in Medical Technology or a two years associate degree in Health Information Management. A bachelor’s degree in Health Information Technology takes longer, but can increase your chances of getting the job, and if your goal is higher management then you will most likely need a Bachelor’s degree and post-graduate studies such as masters. Since a health information technician doesn’t actually use the data as a doctor would, the requirements are different and more oriented towards science and maths: you will need subjects such as computer science, statistics and math as well as traditional health related subjects.
Health information technologies focus less around direct contact with the patient and more on the data. A keen interest in data management, data quality, biomedical research, computer sciences and project management are a must, but you will be spending much less time on the lab or interacting with patients than any other medical professional. Most health information technologists never go to the hospital wards, and instead work behind the scenes to ensure the data quality of the institution is preserved, and working with third parties such as insurance providers to allow them the medical data they require.
How to Become a Registered Health Information Technician
Once you complete your academic qualification, the next step is becoming a registered health information technician, as that will increase your options in the job market. There are several organisations offering certifications in health information, and the requirements are slightly different but all of them are generally considered highly valuable:
- Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists
- Board of Medical Specialty Coding
- American Academy Of Professional Coders
You will usually need to pass an exam by the American Health Information Management Association (though some states don’t require it) and take continuing education courses every couple of years to keep your RHIT certification vigent. While this may seem costly in terms of time and money, the increased salary and career opportunities make it well worth it.
Overview of Health Information Technology Salaries
On the bright side, the demand and average healthcare information technology salary is on the rise, because of the ageing population and increase complexity of the data and medical information systems. On the not so bright side, the field is changing so often that in order to stay competitive you will need to stay up to date with the latest technologies and that also costs money.
According to the U.S Bureau of Statistics, the outlook for Health information professionals is great: a growth of 22% expected between 2012 and 2020, much higher than the average. In May 2012 the median annual medical information technology salary was $34,160, however the salary of a health information technician will depend on location, years of experience, certifications and the type of employer. The lowest 10% only earned $22,250 per year (2012 figures) compared with the average health information management salary which can easily double that. The top 10% senior health information technologist salaries surpassed $56,000 per year, working full time. This sometimes includes extra pay for working long shifts or being on call.
A potential career path for a health information technician who is willing to get into higher management would be working as a medical and health service manager, which has even higher salaries (a median of $88.580 per year, as of 2012).
Health Information Technician Salary
According to the HIMSS 2013 composition survey, average salaries for a health information technician start at $86,536 for staff and go up to almost $190,000 for executive management. The good news is that not only the average salary for health information technology is already pretty good, but they are also on the rise. An increase of 4% from last year with no signs of slowing down across all the different seniority levels.
By location, the regions offering top salaries in the field of health information technologies and medical coding are:
- Mid-Atlantic ($127,549)
- Pacific ($122,683)
- East North Central ($113, 623)
- New England ($113,042)
- South Atlantic ($112,779)
The top three industries paying top health information technology salaries are:
- Scientific, research and development services
- Insurance Carriers
- Management Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
Of those three, Management consulting services employs considerably more people than the other two together, so that is something worth keeping in mind when setting your sights on a health information technician career.
If you want to reach a higher health information technologist salary, a RHIT certification is the way to go. A Certified or Registered Health Information Technician salary is, on average, higher than a non-certified one and you will find your job prospects significantly improving. However, at this point and with the right academic background you can get a job as a health information technologist almost fresh from graduation, as the demand is very high. Some people choose to progress through the ranks of medical information technologies from a starting job as a medical coding professional.
Health Information Management Salary
Health information management salaries are considerably higher than those of staff, but they also come with more responsibility. From a department head making on average $109,478 per year to executive management at $189,435 in 2013 (on a constant year on year increase due to increased demand and complexity of the job), it is clearly a well paid career path.
However, in order to reach the management levels at Health Information technologies you will need to be more than a certified RHIT. Often you will need additional academic education such as an MBA or other business management related certifications, and often even lower management need to be competent and certified on topics such as project management, with Prince2 and Sigma being two of the favorites.
Health information technology salary growth is expected to remain strong, as the need for qualified professionals increase as medicine becomes more and more dependent on data.