Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

What Are Medical Records and Health Information Technicians?

Medical records and health information technicians are professionals who work with healthcare data. They are often known as health information technicians. And, they play a key role in healthcare organizations.

So, what exactly do they do?

First of all, health information technicians document patients’ information. That includes each person’s medical history, symptoms, and test results. Technicians then organize and manage this data in paper and electronic filing systems. The goal is to make sure all data is accurate and secure. Technicians also need to be able to find and use data for billing and other purposes.

Some health information technicians specialize in a particular role. For instance, medical coders review and code patient data for health insurance reimbursement. They are often a key link between healthcare providers and billing offices.

Health information technicians don’t treat patients. But, they make sure doctors and nurses have the correct information at their fingertips. This is key to providing the best possible medical care!

Health Information Technician ResponsibilitiesWhere Health Information Technicians WorkTypes of Health Information Technicians
  • Review patient data for accuracy
  • Organize and manage databases 
  • Track patient outcomes to assess quality
  • Use classification software to assign codes to data
  • Record data in an electronic form
  • Keep patient records confidential
Health information technicians often work in hospitals. They may also work in physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities, and other places.

Medical Coders – These technicians review and code patient data. This is necessary for billing and insurance purposes.

Cancer Registrars – These technicians work with cancer patients’ information. They may code, compile, and analyze data related to cancer cases.
 

What degree do you need to be a health information technician?

Most health information technicians earn a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree. Both kinds of programs help you learn the ropes of healthcare data and how it’s used. And either kind of program could prepare you to pursue certification, like RHIT.

Health Information Technician Associate’s Degree Programs

Associate’s degree programs give an overview of the field, including key skills. You’ll study topics like health information management and medical coding. You’ll get familiar with healthcare terms, practices, and ethical concerns. And, most programs touch on the biological sciences.

You may also take general education courses like Psychology or Communications.  These courses could help you learn soft skills you may need for your career. For example, good interpersonal skills are important for health information technicians.

Look for associate’s degree programs like:

•    Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Health Information Technology
•    Health Information Technician (HIT) Associate’s Degree
•    Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Billing & Coding

While programs vary, most offer courses like:
    
•    Medical terminology
•    Anatomy and physiology
•    Communication
•    Classification and coding systems
•    Healthcare reimbursement 
•    Healthcare statistics
•    Computer systems

Health Information Technician Certificate Programs

Certificate programs offer many of the same courses as associate’s degree programs. That includes medical terminology, human anatomy, and coding systems. But, certificate programs do not result in a degree. They call for fewer credits and tend to leave out the general education courses.

Some certificate programs focus on a specific area of the field. For instance, Coding Specialist Certificate programs cover clinical coding systems. You’ll study the role of coding when it comes to billing for health services. And, you’ll learn how to code medical records for health organizations like hospitals.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Health Information Technician?

Earning an associate’s degree in health information technology takes about two years. (That is, if you are a full-time student.) These programs tend to range from 61 to 74 credits.

A certificate in medical coding may call for anywhere from 19 to 34 credits, give or take a few. So, you might be able to earn a certificate in less time than an associate’s degree.

Health Information Technician Programs That Could be Completed in Less Than 18 Months

School# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Trident University36Multiple12
Ultimate Medical Academy63.5Multiple70 to 75 weeks (about 17 months)

How Much It Costs to Become a Health Information Technician

Your biggest cost will likely be your education program. In 2016, students in this field paid median in-state public tuition of $3,172. For out-of-state private colleges, median tuition was $22,253.

Compare tuition from a few other schools:

School# of Credits RequiredCost Per CreditTotal Tuition
Ultimate Medical Academy63$430$27,090
Trident University36$1,158 (per course)$13,900

Top Online Medical Records and Health Information Technician Degree Programs

Last check, 468 schools offered health information technology programs. From those schools there were 10,879 degrees awarded to students. The majority (97.9%) of these were Associate’s degrees.

School2016 Degrees Awarded2017/18 Tuition (Out of State Unless**)
University of Phoenix-Arizona1,350$9,608**
Devry University-Illionis655$17,316**
Miller-Motte College-Wilmington232$11,105**
St. Petersburg College188$11,607
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus186N/A
Rasmussen College-Flordia137$10,935
Central Oregon Community College118$9,855
Rasmussen College-Minnesota116$10,935**
Cuyahoga Community College District111$7,648
Miami Dade College107$9,661

 

Becoming a Registered Health Information Technician

Most employers wish to hire certified health information technicians. You can earn certification through several different organizations, like AHIMA. Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) is a common one. 

RHIT certification helps make sure technicians know the skills needed for their jobs. These skills include inputting health records, using computer applications, and coding data. The RHIT credential may also help technicians prepare for new opportunities, like management.

Requirements to become certified are:

  • Education – Your education must be at the associate’s degree level. You must fulfill the requirements of a Health Information Management (HIM) program. And, your program must be CAHIIM-accredited.
  • Exam – You must pass an exam that tests your professional knowledge.

Once you earn the RHIT certification, remember to recertify every two years. You’ll need to complete 20 continuing education units (CEUs) for each two-year cycle. 

For medical coders, AHIMA also offers Certified Coding Associate (CCA) certification. The CCA exam tests coding skills in any setting. There are also specific exams for coders in hospitals or physician practices.

To earn CCA certification, you must have at least a high school diploma. It’s also recommended that you pursue formal training or coding experience.
 

Careers in the Medical Records and Health Information Technician Field

As of 2016, there were 3.98 million health information technology grads in the workforce. And, employment in this field may be growing. Between 2016 and 2026, health information technician jobs are predicted to grow 13%. That’s faster than average for all careers.

So, what does the typical health information technician look like? Almost all degree-holders in this field (91.7%) were female. And, the average age of a graduate in the workforce was 43.2 years old.

Top States for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
California21,900$50,260
Texas17,620$41,510
Flordia12,460$40,980
New York9,590$46,200
Ohiio9,200$40,430

Medical Records and Health Information Technician Career Paths

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians (i)

Health information technicians document patients’ health information, including their medical history, symptoms, examination and test results, treatments, and other information about healthcare services that are provided to patients. Their duties vary by employer and by the size of the facility in which they work.

  • Median Salary: $39,180 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 13%  (Faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award

Pharmacy Technicians (ii)

Pharmacy technicians play an assisting role to a licensed pharmacist. They are charged with taking information from customers or health professionals to fill prescriptions, measuring medications, organizing inventories and many other things. Their work is constantly monitored by a learned professional.

  • Median Salary: $31,750 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 12%  (Faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: High School Diploma or equivalent

Medical and Health Services Managers (iii)

Medical and health services managers play an administrative role in cataloging health information. They work to improve efficiency and quality in administering health treatments and manage the finances of the health care institution. They also must stay ahead of any changing health care legislation and ensure the organization is using appropriate technological tools.

  • Median Salary: $98,350 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 20%  (Much faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's Degree

(i) bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm | (ii)bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm | (iii) bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm