Have you ever heard of health information technology? No? Well, if you’re interested in a career in the healthcare industry and aren’t interested in becoming a doctor or nurse, it might be a phrase you should check into.
Medical records and health information technologists, sometimes referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. Their job is to make sure patient health records are accurate, secure (but accessible to those authorized to view them) and are of sufficient quality, in both electronic and paper systems. In other words, their job is to ensure the health records in a given office are maintained properly.
Using classification systems to code and categorize patient information, health information technicians maintain records in databases and registries, and work for insurance reimbursement. They are essentially records specialists, charged with one of the most important and sensitive tools in a medical office.
What does a health information technology professional do?
Health information technicians typically use their skills in health information technology do perform the following job duties:
- Review patient records for timeliness, completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of data
- Organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries
- Track patient outcomes for quality assessment
- Use classification software to assign clinical codes for reimbursement and data analysis
- Electronically record data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
- Protect patients’ health information for confidentiality, authorized access for treatment, and data security.
These tasks are an important to the smooth operation of the medical office, and serves an all-important aspect of healthcare: preserving patient medical histories.
While workers involved with health information technology do not typically interact with patients as part of the job, they do work regularly with healthcare workers such as nurses and doctors to clarify diagnoses and ensure records are kept accurately and completely.
Similar professions in the health information technology field include medical coders and cancer registrars. Medical coders perform tasks such as reviewing patient information for preexisting conditions, retrieve patient records for medical personnel and work as liaison between health clinicians and billing offices. Cancer registrars review the records and pathology reports for completeness and accuracy, assign diagnostic and treatment classification codes for cancers and benign tumors, conduct annual follow-ups and analyze and compile cancer patient information.
Health information technology: a growing profession
In 2012, about 186,000 people were employed in the health information technology field. By 2022, that number is expected to increase by about 41,000, a growth of 22 percent. That’s a large amount of growth, much faster than the average for all occupations. Cancer registrars are especially expected to be in high demand, but a rise in both the number and frequency of healthcare visits, coupled with the widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs), makes health information technology a rapidly-growing field.
Those with certification in health information technology will have the best job prospects, according to a study by the bureau of labor statistics. Certifications such as registered health information technicians (RHIT) and the certified tumor registrar (CTR) offer health information technicians options to help them expand their career prospects. In addition, as EHRs continue to become the standard for maintaining health records, workers with computer skills will be at a premium.
Also, continuing education plays an important role in the work of those in health information technology. Technologies evolve and change, as do processes. In order to keep up with those changes, additional, ongoing training is often required. Also, as time passes those in health information technology sometimes gain additional certifications that allow them to expand their job opportunities and just gain more knowledge in their job.
If you’re interested in pursuing health information technology as a profession, you should be sure to get as much education on this area of study as possible. Many states require health information technology certifications, licenses, or registrations. Often workers pursue health information technology education from an accredited institution such as a career college or technical institute.
Healthcare is a rapidly-expanding industry, and those who have the initiative, the skills, and the drive to break into that field may find success waiting for them. Health information technology is one area with a lot of promise for someone looking to enter a career-based industry.