A health information technician medical career will be an increasingly popular health care career in the years to come, as technology and privacy regulations converge to make it one of the strongest sectors in the healthcare field when it comes to job growth. Due to the advances of computers and other technology, paper medical records are on their way to becoming a thing of the past, and have been mostly replaced by electronic health records, or EHRs. Because of increasing concerns about the privacy of medical records, overseeing and protecting these records, while also relaying them to authorized medical and legal authorities, has become paramount. Other people working in a health information technician career do such jobs as medical billing or coding, seeing to it that physicians and other medical professionals are properly reimbursed for their work by insurance companies and government health programs.
Health information technicians work in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, and other facilities that have a medical focus. Most jobs are performed at a desk or in a cubicle, and while there may be some walking involved in the job, for the most part there isn’t much physical labor involved. Repetitive stress syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome can occur, but with proper precautions and ergonomically designed equipment, they should not present a problem for most workers in the field. Proficiency and speed at typing is a necessary requirement, as is familiarity with the use of computers. The job will also require the health information technician to be trained in specialized software; often it will be necessary to learn to work with several kinds of software for the various job functions. Most positions are full time, and the majority of health information technicians work during the day, but in hospitals and clinics, some positions will require working evening or midnight shifts. Technicians will need to be skilled in both written and oral communications, as much of their job involves interacting with doctors, insurance company representatives, patients, and other technicians.
Health information technicians put together and maintain patient health records comprising medical history, test results, any known allergies to medications, symptoms, treatment history, etc. They also verify the records’ accuracy and organize and manage them to maintain privacy and allow access by authorized medical and legal professionals as needed. Technicians who specialize in medical billing navigate the complex world of medical codes, reviewing patient treatments and applying the correct codes to each one in order to ensure reimbursement for the treating doctor. While there may be some overlap between these two functions, medical coding is generally separate from other more generalized health information tasks.
While in some cases it’s possible to get into the field without a college degree, this is becoming much more difficult with the growing complexity of the job. These days, most people entering a health information technician career possess an associate’s degree in health information technology. During their coursework, they study a wide range of subjects covering all aspects of the work they will be doing, including codes for billing purposes, health information software, laws governing the handling of medical records, anatomy, physiology, reimbursement methods, medical terminology, and working with databases. Upon graduation, the student should take the Registered Health Information Technician certification exam, as most employers will require this. There are similar exams for those who want to specialize in medical coding, and certification is increasingly necessary in this area as well.
Earnings vary, of course, depending on several factors. Health information technicians working for the federal and state governments have higher average salaries than those working in the private sector. Those employed by hospitals are a bit lower down the pay scale, and the lowest average earnings are associated with employment in doctor’s offices. Most technicians earn between $28,000 and $45,000 a year, and some earn substantially more, while others earn less. Job prospects are projected to be excellent for people entering a health information technician career for the foreseeable future. Health care is a strong growth industry, and increasing concerns about privacy, and reliance on computers and other technology mean that the outlook for employment in this area should remain far above average.