and health information technicians generally obtain an associate degree
from a community or junior college. Typically, community and junior
colleges offer flexible course scheduling or online distance learning
courses. In addition to general education, coursework includes medical
terminology, anatomy and physiology, legal aspects of health
information, health data standards, coding and abstraction of data,
statistics, database management, quality improvement methods, and
computer science. Applicants can improve their chances of admission into
a program by taking biology, math, chemistry, health, and computer
science courses in high school.
Most employers prefer to
hire Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT), who must pass a
written examination offered by the American Health Information
Management Association (AHIMA). To take the examination, a person must
graduate from a 2-year associate degree program
accredited by the
Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information
Management Education (CAHIIM). There are currently hundreds of
accredited programs in Health Informantics and Information Management
Some employers prefer
candidates with experience in a health care setting. Experience is
valuable in demonstrating certain skills or desirable qualities. It is
beneficial for health information technicians to possess good
communication skills, as they often serve as a liaison between health
care facilities, insurance companies, and other establishments. Accuracy
is also essential to technicians because they must pay close attention
to detail. A candidate who exhibits proficiency with computers will
become more valuable as health care facilities continue to adopt
electronic medical records.
medical records and health information technicians usually advance in
one of two ways -- by specializing or by moving into a management
position. Many senior technicians specialize in coding, in cancer
registry, or in privacy and security. Most coding and registry skills
are learned on the job. A number of schools offer certificate programs
in coding or include coding as part of the associate degree program for
health information technicians, although there are no formal degree
programs in coding. For cancer registry, there are a few formal 2-year
certificate programs approved by the National Cancer Registrars
Association (NCRA). Some schools and employers offer intensive 1- to
2-week training programs in either coding or cancer registry.
coding is available from several organizations. Coding certification
within specific medical specialty areas is available from the Board of
Medical Specialty Coding and the Professional Association of Healthcare
Coding Specialist (PAHCS). The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
offers three distinct certification programs in coding. The AHIMA also
offers certification for Certified Healthcare Privacy and Security
because of growing concerns for the security of electronic medical
records. Certification in cancer registry is available from the NCRA.
Continuing education units are typically required to renew credentials.
In large medical
records and health information departments, experienced technicians may
advance to section supervisor, overseeing the work of the coding,
correspondence, or discharge sections, for example. Senior technicians
with RHIT credentials may become director or assistant director of a
medical records and health information department in a small facility.
However, in larger institutions, the director usually is an
administrator with a bachelor's degree in medical records and health
advance promising health information clerks to jobs as medical records
and health information technicians, although this practice may be less
common in the future. Advancement usually requires 2 to 4 years of job
experience and completion of a hospital's in-house training program.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.