Why it's the Right Time to Become a Health Information Technician

Take a look at your health insurance bill after a visit to the doctor. Ever wonder how the information gets from the small clinic room you sit in with your doctor to a piece of paper outlining exactly what took place during your doctor visit?

The position responsible for ensuring everything is transcribed correctly on the bill is the newest and hottest upcoming healthcare profession – health information technician (HIT).

A lot takes place between the time you arrive and leave a clinic, and it’s the HIT who ensures the process runs smoothly. First, every service that takes place at a clinic has a specific code, and doctors and nurses are responsible for inputting the information about the service into computers in clinic rooms. The doctors’ and nurses’ notes are then reviewed by the health information management (HIM) team or health information technicians/coders. These professionals check to make sure everything has been coded correctly before the patient’s information is sent over to an insurance company.

Why All the Buzz?

The healthcare industry is one of the last industries to rely on handwritten records – and while many other industries count on eServers and email, many medical providers are still relying on paper notes and fax machines.

However, this is all changing thanks to Congress.

The government created a mandate to convert written patient charts and documents to electronic medical records (EMR) by 2014. The importance of EMR to physicians and healthcare organizations is based on the belief  it is crucial to electronically secure patient information, all while cutting down healthcare costs, according to MyEMR360.com. Those organizations not compliant with the mandate will most likely be subject to a penalty beginning in 2015.

Congress also mandated a new coding system, meaning healthcare providers must convert from using ICD-9 coding to ICD-10 coding by Oct. 1, 2014. The change in coding should help limit the amount of problems, including the “misrouting of transactions, rejections of transactions due to insurance identification errors, and difficulty determining patient eligibility,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services press release.

Bottom line, both mandates create job openings for health information technicians and health information management professionals. The jobs are ripe for the taking for those who leap first.

One of the first tasks that may be expected from an HIT is helping healthcare providers move decades upon decades of physical health charts, forms and documents that currently exist for many patients and put them into an electronic format – all while making sure not to lose any patient information along the way. Once that project is complete, the HIT will be ready to use EMR on a day-to-day basis.

How to Get in on the HIT Opportunity

Because of the extensive task at hand – and the importance of the HIT’s daily duties – several new companies are sprouting up and in need of skilled HITs.

Within this field there are many places to work at. An HIT could work at a hospital or clinic, or become an independent consultant or work with a private consulting company.  

“Doctors need help and are looking to outsource,” said Julie Sharma, Rasmussen College HIT graduate. “They hire people to come in and help. I’m there as part of a team to assist them with learning their new software, and there is a lot of growth in this field. Once all the doctors have switched over to electronic medical records, they will need ongoing support from HITs on the software [and everyday coding].”

“Due to the nature of this position, it will not be going away,” said Julie Witt, manager of employee recruitment for Rasmussen College. “There will always be a need for these professionals, and now is a great time to jump on the opportunity.”

Many medical providers are facing a shortage in finding skilled, knowledgeable health IT staff since they all need them by the same deadline, which creates an opportunity for new HIT and HIM students and graduates. Also, according to the BLS, HIT positions are expected to increase by 20 percent annually through 2018.

Witt said there are several reasons to jump into this field, including:

Some qualities and interests you may have that could make you a good fit for this career:

  • Enjoys entering data
  • Talented in accuracy
  • Organized
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interested in indirect patient care
  • Works well independently

Most medical providers require at least a two-year health information technician associate’s degree, and it is a good idea to take a registration exam after graduation to become a registered health information technician (RHIT). Witt said it will make a graduate that much more valuable in the HIT field.

For those looking to stand out in the crowd even more, they can pounce on the opportunity to take an associate’s degree to the next level and study for a four-year health information management (HIM) bachelor’s degree.

Earning an HIM degree would be a good decision for those students who want to become more knowledgeable on health IT, become a manager and make more money, Witt said.

So, do you think you have what it takes to start a career as a health information technician or in health information management? Tell us why you chose a career in this field or our Facebook page.

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Jennifer is a Content and Social Media Specialist at Rasmussen College. She researches, writes and edits blog posts designed to help and inspire current, past and future students through their entire educational process in an effort to encourage learning at a college level and beyond.

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