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Health Information Technology (HIT) Certification

Health information technology workers are responsible for organizing and maintaining medical records and data, primarily for hospitals and doctor's offices, though some are employed at nursing homes, public health agencies and mental health facilities.

Health information technology workers play a critical role linking patients' medical records and histories with insurance companies. They review and examine medical records to ensure they are completely and accurately filled out and use classification software to assign codes to medical procedures provided to patients for billing purposes. Most work "behind-the-scenes" in medical facilities, but they do interact regularly with registered nurses and other medical staff to compile and record patient data.

Although some health information technology workers have earned associate degrees, others hold certificates or diplomas, and many go on to earn professional certification as well -- often a requirement for employment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) reports.

Health information technology education and certification requirements

Students interested in health information technology careers typically must complete a certificate- or diploma-based program from an accredited vocational or technical school or an associate-level degree program from an accredited community college, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Programs routinely focus on the following courses:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Methods of Financial Reimbursement by Health Care Providers
  • Statistics of Health Care
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Computer Systems
  • Medical Classification and Coding Systems

Certificate and diploma programs typically last from six months to one year and are either campus-based, online or a hybrid of both. Upon completion of an educational program accredited through the Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management, students can apply for licensing in the field through the one of several different organizations.

One of the most widely recognized certifications is the Registered Health Information Administrator and Registered Health Information Technician, both of which are administered by the American Health Information Management Association. Other important certifications include Certified Coding Associate, Certified Coding Specialist and Certified Coding Specialist-Physician based. There are a number of specialty coding certifications as well for different segments of the healthcare industry.

Benefits of certification in health information technology

According to the BLS, most employers prefer to hire workers who have obtained professional certifications in their particular field of allied health.

For instance, the Registered Health Information Administrator certification provided by the American Health Information Management Association demonstrates to employers that key employees are experts in the field of health information and medical recording, computer information systems, and methods of collecting and analyzing patient data. The certification also ensures that administrators have comprehensive knowledge of ancillary health care functions, such as their employers' ethical and legal obligations to patients, health care delivery standards and patient privacy.

The Registered Health Information Technician certification is for health information technology professionals who most often spend their workdays gathering and analyzing patient data and using computers to compile and sift through that data. It also shows they possess comprehensive knowledge of medical coding diagnoses and data recording practices. Certification can allow talented health information technicians to move ahead in the field and into management positions, especially if they possess a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, the AHIMA reports.

Sources:

Certifications, American Health Information Management Association, www.ahima.org/certification#

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm

Planning Your Education, American Health Information Management Association, www.ahima.org/careers/plan?tabid=cert

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