Healthcare Information Technology Education and Training Program Information
Health information technology refers to the use of computers to store, organize, manage and retrieve patients' medical records. Several degree programs exist to train individuals in this growing and changing field. Most institutions call their programs health information technology rather than healthcare information technology.
Associate of Health Information Technology
Associate's degree programs in health information technology are typically a 2-year endeavor to study and train in the growing field of health information. Students in this type of program learn about the many ways healthcare information and medical records are stored, organized and retrieved to use for billing, reimbursement and research as well as assisting doctors and nurses in providing care. An associate's degree program is typically tailored for individuals who do not have a college degree and require students to take general education classes.
Applicants are typically required to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Also, applicants must be proficient in English and math, have a basic understanding of computers and be able to keyboard. Some programs require that applicants take classes in medical terminology and biology prior to entering the program.
In addition to general education classes, the program focuses on specific areas related to health and healthcare information. Most programs include a clinical or internship. Possible class titles include:
- Health data information basics
- Storing and using health data information
- Statistics in health
- Medical coding
- Basic and advance study of computerized medical records
Popular Career Options
A person who earns an associate's degree in health information technology is prepared to work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as a doctor's office, hospital or continuing care center. Some possible job titles are:
- Health data analyst
- Insurance claims analyst
- Records technician specialist
- Clinical coding specialist
- Patient information coordinator
Continuing Education and Certification Information
At the associate's degree level, professionals in health information technology may sit for the Registered Health Technician certification exam overseen by the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org). Earning certification generally involves a having a degree from an accredited institution and passing an exam. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (www.cahiim.org) has listings of colleges and universities that offer degrees and certificates in health information technology and related programs.
Professional organizations, such as the American Health Information Management Association and American Medical Informatics Association (www.amia.org), also provide resources for continuing education for professionals. Much of the information and training is available online.
Bachelor of Health Information Management
At the bachelor's degree level, the degree title changes slightly to health information management or health informatics to reflect a shift in focus to management of health information. Schools may design their programs for professionals who have an associate's degree in health information technology and are seeking to move into a management position. Students in this type of program learn the basics of medical coding and healthcare information, but also explore advanced study in how health records can affect the delivery and cost of healthcare services.
A high school diploma or GED equivalent is typically required. Applicants should also have completed coursework in statistics, anatomy, physiology, biology and medical terminology. Some colleges want to see applicants who have a Registered Health Information Technician credential or have an associate's degree in health information technology from an accredited institution.
In addition to healthcare information coursework, most programs include courses in general education, such as math, arts, humanities and history. Most bachelor's degree programs also include an internship or work-related project. Class titles may be:
- Clinical applications in health information
- Health information privacy and security
- Managing health information services
- Financial implications in healthcare
- How information and technology is changing in society
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Health information management is a growing industry, according to the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org), with the demand for professionals expected to grow by 20% from 2008-2018. The median annual salary for the health information manager was reported to be $81,850 in 2009 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
For those interested in further study, many colleges and universities have a master's degree program or the shorter certificate option or both. Advanced study could be useful particularly for those who have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated area and want to go into health information technology. Professionals with a bachelor's may seek certification as a Registered Health Information Administrator from the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org). This certification is also available to graduates of a master's program.
Master of Health Information Technology
Many colleges and universities offer this graduate level program for healthcare professionals who want to have an advanced understanding of health information technology or other professionals looking to launch a new career. This type of program provides opportunities to research into the system of healthcare and the impact of information technology on the quality of the system. As with the other degree programs, the master's degree program is a unique blend of computers, information technology, healthcare and management training. Many schools offer their master's degree programs online.
Applicants should have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Most schools ask applicants to submit an essay that should include professional experience or reasons for pursuing the advanced degree.
Coursework for this type of master's degree program is focused on the advanced study of healthcare information. Most programs include a thesis or similar graduate research project. Some possible class titles include:
- Healthcare management and leadership
- Managing healthcare data
- Healthcare database design and security
- Using statistics in decision-making
- Financial analysis of healthcare systems
Popular Career Options
People who have earned a master's degree in health information technology take on administrative, managerial and executive positions. They may work for educational institutions, technology firms, the government, healthcare companies, physicians or hospitals as:
- Research data analyst
- Health information management department director
- Health information management system manager
- Data quality manager
- Information security officer
- Health information management college instructor
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