Looking for a healthcare career that puts your organizational, analytical and technical skills to good use? Becoming a health information technician may be the perfect profession for you.
Health information technicians are trained in medical terms and coding systems that health systems around the world rely upon. And becoming a health information technician opens the door to a wide range of career opportunities.
There’s a lot to learn about the role, its requirements and its responsibilities, so we’ve prepared this career guide to help you figure out if it’s the right path for you.
Part One What Is a Health Information Technician?
Though health information technicians do not have a hands-on role in patient care, they are essential to healthcare services being provided and paid for in an efficient manner.
Electronic health record (EHR) data is generated from the moment that a patient first makes an appointment to the point when service is paid for. Health information techs work behind the scenes, organizing and managing this data.
They ensure that the data from patient records is accurate and available for future care providers to understand a patient’s health history. And they facilitate the billing and compensation of services and relay information to researchers tracking healthcare trends.
The work health information technicians do is represented across several different job titles, including:
- Medical record technicians
- Medical coders
- Medical billers
- Health information managers
- Registered health information administrators (RHIAs)
The health information technology field is a combination of computer science, medicine, and financial management. Though largely invisible, health information forms the framework on which every aspect of care rests.
These individuals are responsible for reviewing, organizing, analyzing, and processing medical records used by healthcare providers.
Health information techs are an integral link between patients, medical providers, and those responsible for reimbursement. The information that passes through their hands is essential to health care organizations, researchers, and government agencies.
Part Two What Do Health Information Technicians Do?
Health information technicians work in a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, nursing homes, physicians’ offices, insurance companies, and government agencies.
Their primary duties include collecting, analyzing, organizing, and verifying patient documents. They also input that information to patient's electronic health records and billing systems in accordance with standardized processes and regulatory practices.
Their job responsibilities may include:
- Ensuring medical records are accurate and complete
- Entering information into electronic health records systems
- Assigning clinical codes to diagnoses and procedures
- Retrieving patient medical records for healthcare professionals
- Ensure confidentiality of patients’ records
Part Three Health Information Technician Salaries
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average salary for registered health information technicians is $54,263 per year, or $26.09 per hour. Pay varies based on responsibilities, experience, education level, and workplace setting.
Health Information Technician Salary Factors
1.) Workplace Setting
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health information technicians earn the highest salaries in hospital settings, while those working in physicians’ offices and other healthcare facilities earn marginally less.
Health information techs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree are eligible for management and leadership roles that receive significantly higher levels of compensation.
Geographic location is another factor that can make a big difference in the amount that a health information technician earns. Jobs in metropolitan areas tend to come with higher pay. The sizable shifts in compensation due to regional differences are exemplified by the median annual salaries paid within these five top-paying areas:
- Richmond, California - $65,847
- Stamford, Connecticut - $64,118
- Bellevue, Washington - $63,969
- San Francisco, California - $61,956
- Lakes, Alaska - $61,868
Part Four How to Become a Health Information Technician
Step 1.) Earn Your High School Diploma or GED
There are several different positions available in health information departments and some are available with only a high school degree. So regardless of your path, you’ll want to start here.
Step 2.) Complete an Accredited Health Information Technology Program
In order to become a registered health information technician certified by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), you will need to complete a health information technology program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Admission into an accredited associate degree program will vary based upon the program to which you apply, but most programs require:
- A high school diploma, GED, or home-school equivalent with a minimum 2.0 GPA
- Official transcripts or GED scores
- Completion of a background check
Two-year programs typically include both classroom work and practical experience working within a healthcare organization. The coursework will address the following topics:
- Healthcare administration
- Disease and diagnosis medical coding
- Records management
- Regulation and compliance
- Data analysis and reporting
- Medical terminology
- HIM Statistics and Computer Applications
- Clinical healthcare
- Business and information technology
Step 3.) Pass the RHIT Examination
After completion of a program, candidates apply to take the RHIT examination, a three-and-a-half-hour exam consisting of approximately 150 questions.
Part Five What Is the Career Outlook for Health Information Technicians?
A career as a health information technician is both personally satisfying and financially rewarding.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. There are multiple factors contributing to this promising job outlook, including the aging of the population and the increased use of electronic health records by healthcare and science organizations.
Certified health information technicians are in the best possible position to take advantage of this level of job security in the healthcare industry.
Part Six What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for Health Information Technicians?
Once certified, a registered health information technician needs to complete 20 continuing education units every two years in order to maintain their credentials and demonstrate their continued competency.
A minimum of eighty percent of credits earned must be in a topic related to health informatics and information management. The other twenty percent can be earned through independent study activities, oversight of directed clinical practice on behalf of accredited programs, attendance at AHIMA events, and other options including live webinars and self-study programs that are available online.
Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Health Information Technician?
There are many options and advantages to becoming a health information technician and numerous resources through which you can learn more. The most helpful include:
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
- HIMSS – Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
Part Eight Health Information Technician FAQs
What Does a Health Information Technician Do?
- Health information techs work with patient data, facilitating its communication between patients, providers, and insurers.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Health Information Technician?
- You can qualify for an entry-level health information technician position in two years.
What Education Do You Need to Become a Health Information Technician?
- The minimum educational requirement for becoming a health information technician is a two-year associate’s degree. Becoming eligible for higher-level or management positions is facilitated by earning a four-year bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.
Is a Health Information Technician a Good Career?
- Becoming a health information technician is a smart choice. It takes just two years to begin earning solid compensation, and as you expand on your qualifications, experience, and education you can advance to leadership positions that earn higher salaries. Perhaps most important of all, the growing demand for health information technicians provides significant job security.