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How Can I Become a Health Information Specialist?

Research what it takes to become a health information specialist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Health Information Specialist?

Health information specialists, sometimes known as medical records and health information technicians, manage medical records in physician's offices, hospitals and other health facilities. They organize patients' health information and input it into databases and electronic health records for both analytical and insurance billing purposes. They are also responsible for ensuring the confidentiality of sensitive health information. Some health information specialists choose to focus their professional careers on a particular area of the field, such as medical coding or cancer information registration.

Read the following chart to learn what you may expect in your career as a health information specialist

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Health information technology
Licensure/Certification Required Certification preferred by employers
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11%*
Average Salary (2018) $44,010*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What Education Do I Need to Be a Health Information Specialist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most health information specialists or technicians enter the field with an associate's degree. Because some states have licensing and certification requirements, you may want to find a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIM). Healthcare information specialist certificate programs are also available. A bachelor's or master's degree may be required to advance in the field of health information management. Typical courses in an associate's degree program include medical terminology, information technology, pharmacology, medical coding, statistics, quality assurance, anatomy, physiology, ethics and psychology.

Certification and Licensing

Certification and licensing may not be required in some states, but some employers prefer to hire Registered Health Information Technicians (RHITs), a designation offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). In order to take the RHIT exam, you'll need to graduate from a CAHIM-accredited associate's degree program in health information management (www.ahima.org).

To take the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam, you'll need to complete a CAHIM-accredited bachelor's degree program in health information management. The AHIMA also offers certification for medical coders, including the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) designations.

Where Will I Work?

Health information technicians typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics and doctor's offices. However, any organization that maintains health records or bills for health-related services may need someone with your skills. Examples of entities that are not healthcare providers but that maintain health information are health insurance companies and law firms that specialize in medical malpractice and negligence lawsuits.

What Job Duties Might I Have?

You will collect, route, record, organize and store medical data and records. Currently, few healthcare providers rely on paper records, so you will spend most of your time working with electronic health record systems. If you work in medical coding, you will code and process patient and insurance billing. You must understand and follow laws and procedures to ensure the accuracy and privacy of personal health information.

What About Salary Potential and the Job Outlook?

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average annual salary of health information specialists was $44,010. With the growing demand for health services, job growth is predicted at 11% from 2018-2028, far above the national average.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another medical office support position is a job as a medical transcriptionist. They convert audio recordings made by physicians into text documents. This job requires a postsecondary certificate or diploma. You could also think about becoming a medical or health service manager, playing a supervisory role in a medical facility or department. It is important to note that, for this job, a bachelor's degree is usually necessary.