Health information technicians (HIT for short) are in charge of managing the health information data, ensuring its accuracy and security, and keeping it secure. While nowadays most of the work is done with computers, it also includes the data that is in a physical format, from X-Rays to hand- written notes. A registered health information technician has also achieved a certification that allows him or her to work in places that require a professional certification.
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A HIT’s job revolves around data. Highly sensitive, confidential data that needs however to be easily accessible to the right parties, such as the insurance companies that need to process insurance reimbursements. In order to do this, various classification systems are used that code and categorize the patient information, which has led to this job also being popularly known as “medical coder”. It is usually considered an office job, and while health information technicians usually work at hospitals they rarely interact directly with patients, though they will be part of the medical team.
A medical records and health information technician can expect to spend a lot of hours in front of a computer, and as such they can suffer from the typical health issues of an office worker: eye strain, back problems due to sitting incorrectly and even repetitive strain injury from typing.
The kind of person who becomes a medical records and health information technician needs to have a particular set of personal qualities in order to be successful at the job. Those are often more associated with computer types than with health professionals. For example, they need to have great analytical skills and be extremely detail oriented. This is because a HIT will not only enter data into the systems: they need to be able to understand medical records and diagnoses, as that understanding will allow them to code them correctly into the system. They need to have technical skills, as most of their work will involve complex computer systems.
Patient data is highly confidential, so goes without saying that a medical records technician needs to be trustworthy. In order to grant patients the rights given by them by confidentiality laws, a health information technician needs the integrity and discretion you would expect of any doctor. No gossiping allowed. At the same time, they will need to interact with non-technical people such as doctors or nurses, so it’s important to have good interpersonal skills.
There are several post-secondary certificate and associate’s degree programs in health information technologies, which are usually a blend of medical subjects such as terminology, anatomy and physiology, and data-centric subjects belonging to healthcare-specific computer sciences such as health data standards, classification and coding systems, healthcare statistics and even insurance reimbursement methods.
In order to increase your chances to land a job as a healthcare information technician, a certification is the way to go. There are different types of certifications, some of them requiring work experience as a medical coder. Some certifications are Registered Health Information Technician (RHIP) or a Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR), which specializes in cancer data.
Salary Expectations And Growth
Health information technologies are a relatively new field that is seeing incredible growth. The expected growth for the next 10 years is of a 22%, which is much faster than the average growth in number of jobs. This makes becoming a RHIT an investment that is likely to pay well in the future. The average health information technology salary varies depending on location and type of employer, but it starts at around $40.000 (this figure is from 2012 which means it’s probably higher now). Becoming certified or reaching management positions are a possible career path which will increase this salary significantly.
Overall Career Outlook
An ageing population and the development of more complex and detailed data management systems to keep patient data means health information experts are not likely to run out of fashion any time soon. However, it is easy to become complacent and stop training, and that could be your downfall as the systems are evolving so quick as to require continuous education (not to mention most certifications will require at least some form of course or exam in order to remain current, usually every two years). However, if you love working with complex data systems and supporting those who save lives without having to get your hands dirty on an emergency room, this could very well be the perfect job for you!