A health information technician plays an important role in ensuring patient record accuracy, organization, quality, security and accessibility. These professionals are also referred to as medical record technicians. Specifically, a Registered Health Information Technician (or RHIT) manages medical records that contain a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, health certificate and insurance. These essential documents can be both on paper or encoded in an electronic database.
In This Guide
- Job Description and Outlook
- Education and Licensing Requirements
- Salary Guide
- Salary by Years Experience
RHITs use medical coding to categorize all patient data. This information is used for reimbursements and keeping the patient’s medical treatment history. Every hospital, nursing home and health clinic have one or more of these professionals on staff. This is because they make doctors’ and other health care providers’ work a lot easier by providing them up-to-date patient information to deliver high quality care.
Job Description and Outlook
In all healthcare settings, patient medical records are used as the basis for all care delivered. With this, these documents must provide accurate and updated information from a patient’s admission until discharge and follow-up care. Doing so allows doctors and nurses to provide the best treatment for the patient. Moreover, they make these medical records accessible and retrievable to third party payers, administrators and even researchers. They use codes to keep up with developments in patient care and come up with strategies to fill in gaps or eliminate redundancies. Insurance companies then use them to calculate reimbursements.
One area of specialization in health information technology is cancer registry. RHITs also play the role of a cancer registrar. They provide data to be used in epidemiological research and public health for cancer awareness campaigns. They guard and keep the most important tools in modern health care settings in accordance to the standards stipulated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
RHITs specialize in medical terminology, the disease process and electronic health records systems. They work collaboratively as a health team member even though they do not work closely with the patients. This is because they provide essential information for the health team regarding patient care and treatment.
Furthermore, they usually work full-time with night and weekend shifts depending on the facility and employer. Generally, they spend their working hours behind the scenes. They do not often come out in the patient wards. They stay in the office and work directly with the health team and third party providers. They clarify ambiguities in medical orders and validate entries in patient medical records. Due to the nature of their work, they are more likely to develop health problems such as ergonomic injury and eyestrain. Occupational precautions must be observed.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for medical record technicians will increase by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020. The BLS reported that there were 179,500 RHITs working in the United States in 2010, and 37,700 more will be needed in the coming decade. The aging population will drive this job market growth. This is because there will be a greater need for medical procedures that involve more claims for both public and private insurance. In addition, the growing demand for healthcare professionals equates to the need for more medical record technicians who will organize and manage the information supplied to them.
Education and Licensing Requirements
There are different routes to take in order to become a health information technician. Aspiring individuals may opt for a six-month certificate in Medical Technology or get a two-year associate’s degree in Health Information Management or Medical Technology. Another option is to enroll in a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Technology that involves coursework in anatomy, physiology, coding systems, medical terminology, healthcare statistics and computer systems. Whichever path is chosen, it is important that the college or university they study at holds accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Health Informatics and Information Management Education. Individuals who aim to eventually hold managerial or administrative positions should opt for the bachelor’s degree and even consider post-graduate studies. Those who are planning to apply to a health IT program should take biology, health, math and computer science courses in high school to increase their chances of admission.
After completing the educational requirements, graduates should work their way towards becoming a registered health information technician since most employers prefer to hire those with professional certification. There are several organizations (American Academy of Professional Coders, Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists and the Board of Medical Specialty Coding) that oversee and award certifications and their requirements are slightly different. Requirements also vary from state to state. Certification typically requires passing an exam given by the American Health Information Management Association. The examination covers subjects including health statistics, health data management, quality management, biomedical research, information technology and systems, health services organization and delivery and organizational resources. They must take continuing education courses (a minimum of 20 hours usually) to renew their certification every two years.
Salary rates may vary due to a variety of factors. Their geographical location, level of education, years of experience, certifications, employment status and type of employer are among the many variables that can affect a RHIT’s income. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay was $17.27 per hour or $35,920 per year in 2011. The top 10% of workers in this field earned an average of $55,170 while the bottom 10% earned a mean of $21,680. The top five paying states included New Jersey that offers $51,850 per year on average, followed by the District of Columbia with an annual mean pay of $44,620, Hawaii at $42,290, Massachusetts at $41,700 and Alaska at $40,900.
Top Three Highest Paying Industries
- Scientific Research and Development Services – $45,720 per year (employs 710)
- Insurance Carriers – $44,110 per year (employs 920)
- Management Scientific and Technical Consulting Services – $42,950 per year (employs 3010)
Industries that Employ the Most RHITs
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals – $37,960 per year (employs 67,340)
- Offices of Physicians – $30,120 per year (employs 40,970)
- Nursing Care Facilities – $33,880 per year (employs 13,050)
Salary by Years Experience (United States)
According to PayScale.com, an average registered health information technologist’s salary is between $24,354 to $46,679 (including bonuses and overtime). This data was collected from 363 HITs, most of whom had 1-4 years in the field. The overall average salary was $35,000.