Become a Health Information Technician in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a health information technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Health Information Systems degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Health Information Technician Do?

Health information technicians are employed as part of the health care field and work directly with medical records. One of their tasks is to make sure patient records are complete, organized and correctly filed. They also conduct analysis on the quality of care being provided by their place of employment, using medical records and follow-up data. These tasks require the use of electronic databases, classification programs and medical codes. Read through the chart below to help you make a decision about pursuing a career in health information technology.

Degree Required Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree; bachelor's degree for advancement
Education Field of StudyHealth information management, medical administration or medical billing
CertificationOptional certification recommended for advancement
Job Growth (2014-2024)15%*
Median Salary (2015)$37,110*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Health Information Technician?

A health information technician is essentially a clerk who specializes in the compilation, distribution and management of medical records. These records might include medical charts, reports and forms. For this position, you'd need to understand the basic content of such forms and also have knowledge of privacy laws, medical billing and coding procedures. Your specific duties could include entering, verifying and securing data, retrieving records for patients and authorized medical personnel, preparing forms and processing insurance claims.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

You'll need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in a postsecondary health information management program. High school-level courses in math, English, technology and the sciences can help you develop background knowledge that's relevant to the duties of a health information technician. If they're available, business courses could also teach you applicable office or administrative skills.

Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree or Certificate

An associate's degree or certificate program in health information management, medical billing or medical administration teaches you how to organize, store and retrieve paper and electronic records, maintain record security and interpret data. Courses cover medical coding, health statistics, reimbursement procedures and medical information technology. The curricula in some programs include an internship working with medical records.

Step 3: Consider Certification

Obtaining the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) could improve your employment prospects by demonstrating your proficiency in medical record keeping (www.ahima.org). You need an associate's degree in an accredited health information management program to qualify for the credential. The certification exam consists of 20 pre-test questions and 130 scored questions in five areas, including health data management, health statistics and health services delivery.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 188,600 health information technicians were employed in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Employment in the field was projected to rise 15% from 2014-2024. Job prospects were expected to be driven by growth in the population of aged people and their increased need for medical aid. Hospitals were the largest employer in the field, but you could potentially find opportunities in physicians' offices, outpatient clinics, home healthcare services, nursing homes and public health agencies. The median annual salary as of May 2015 was $37,110.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Your advancement options include earning additional specialty certifications from AHIMA to work toward a position as a health information manager or administrator. Your options include the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), the Certified Coding Specialist - Physician-based (CCS-P) and the Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS) certifications. Earning a bachelor's degree in health information management might give you a better chance of becoming a manager. With a bachelor's degree, you'd become eligible for AHIMA's Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Information clerks are responsible for entering information in databases, keeping records organized, collecting data and passing information along to clients or employers. Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings of doctors and nurses and type them to make electronic medical records. Like health information technicians, they need to be knowledgeable of medical terminology and medical codes. As part of their managerial duties, medical and health services managers need to be able use and organize medical information.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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