The Health Information Technology Field is Growing

The health technician field is not only one that is expected to see above average growth in the next several years, but is also one that will continue to see changes in job responsibilities.

Working in this field usually means the business environment will be a pleasant and comfortable office setting. This is one of the few medical fields that does not include direct, hand-on contact with patients. The typical work week is 40 hours, though there may be some overtime. In facilities that are open 24 hours a day, technicians may work day, evening or night shifts.

Medical information and record technicians usually have at least an associate’s degree. Course work in the field will include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, data requirements and standards, data analysis, clinical classification and codifying systems, data base security and management, insurance reimbursement and quality improvement methods. Taking math, biology, chemistry, health and computer science courses in high school can improves an applicant’s standing when applying to a post-secondary school.

Many employers will prefer to hire credentialed technicians. Credentialing programs often will require re-credentialing and continuing education. Obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or an advanced specialty certification, can help with career advancement for someone experienced in the health information technology field. Those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree can often become an information manager.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects employment for medical records and information technicians to increase by 20 percent through 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations through that time. As the population continues to age, more medical tests, treatment and procedures will be required. Those technicians that can demonstrate a strong understanding of technology and computer software likely will be particularly in demand.

As the use of electronic medical records continues to increase, more technicians will also be needed. In fact, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department recently announced it would be awarding $267 million to several non-profit organizations to establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers, which will help grow this emerging field. These centers will provide support to medical practitioners as they transition to electronic records.

In 2008, the most recent numbers available, the median wage was $30,618. The middle 50 percent of workers in the field earned between $25,000 and $40,000. The upper 10 percent earned $50,000.

The health information technology field is one that will continue to have very good job prospects due to constant changes in computer and medical technology combined with an aging population.

5 Simple Search Strategies to Find Quality Health Information on the Internet

Approximately 10 million people in the USA search online for information about their health, or the health of their loved ones, every single day. 140 million Americans have already undertaken such searches. A number of recent studies have reviewed this activity and three factors stand out:

1. Searching on the Internet for health information is a remarkably common activity in America
2. While many people find health information that seems helpful, most do not really know if it is reliable.
3. People trust doctors to deliver high quality health information, and information from the internet discussed with doctors, who are the “health information experts” often leads to changes in treatment.

So what are the 5 search strategies?

1. Quick and dirty.

For a quick simple search there is nothing wrong with doing rapid searches at Google or Yahoo , and at least scan the first 20 or so results. Just remember that Google displays two types of results, sites ranked by a commercially secret algorithmically derived measure of popularity, which is what most people look at first, and sponsored paid links. The second quick and dirty approach to undertake routinely is to go to a couple of quality information sites as your first stop beyond the search engines. I recommend wikipedia the amazing open source encyclopedia with great breadth and depth, but still with a level of inaccuracy, and MedlinePlus which is a Government run site and is, in my opinion, the best overall consumer health site on the Internet.

Many patients want to go beyond this level of search however, and I would suggest the following strategies;

2 Professional journal searching

There are several free programs on the Internet which allow you to search professional peer-reviewed scientific papers from the health and medical journals. The two main professional databases are: “Medline” at the NIH and “Psycinfo” at the American Psychological Association

3 Search evaluated Internet subject gateways

The beauty of Internet searches is that you can pick up useful reliable information which hasn’t always been published in peer-reviewed journals, but which has been checked for accuracy by teams of medical reviewers. The gateways I use are the US National Library of Medicine or Healthfinder in the US, and Intute or NHSDirect in the UK. Other sites are devoted to collecting peer-reviewed “best practice” treatment guidelines (guideline.gov ) which you can use to compare with your own treatment regime. If you want information on evidence-based medicine you cannot go past the Cochrane Library ( cochrane.org ) and I frequently recommend eMedicine (eMedicine.com) which is emerging as the “wikipedia of healthcare”.

4 General Web searches

Now we move to the open areas of the Internet that you will find via search engines. Here you will have to start questioning the quality of the information you retrieve much more critically as most of it will not have been subjected to any real quality review mechanism, and much will have a commercial bias. Use the methods at Discern.org.uk to evaluate the quality of information on general sites, and in principle tend to focus on mainstream sites run by government agencies or universities.

5 Discussion lists and newsgroups

This is where you can waste most time, and where information is least reliable – but it can be fun, and is sometimes helpful, particularly if you want to communicate with others who have similar needs. You may even be lucky and join a group where there is a real expert. There are many groups on the Internet – just put in a search string with the word group, as well as whatever topic you are researching. The largest number of health related ones seem to currently be at Google groups

Once you have undertaken your searches the most important next step is to discuss your findings with you doctor. The role of many doctors in gradually changing, and they are increasingly becoming “information analysts” helping patients find good quality health information that will lead to good healthcare decisions. More details are available in my book.

A Health Information Technology Degree Is Closer Than You Think

Do your friends ever tire of your meticulous attention to detail? What if that very quality could be your ticket to a great new career as a Health Information Technician?

Health Information Technicians interact with people in a medical environment without having to give shots or draw blood. If you’re ready to work in a professional healthcare setting and are good with numbers and organization, then you might just be the perfect candidate for a career in Health Information Technology (HIT).

Are you ready to take that first step to a rewarding career? This article will help you find the right HIT degree program that can give you valuable hands-on skills to become a Health Information Technician.

What Does a Health Information Technician Do?

These technicians handle a variety of information. They keep records of office visits, diagnoses, procedures, treatments and patient histories. They are versed in the language of medical coding and can analyze data to help improve medical care and control costs.

On a daily basis, technicians will…

  • Manage and update patient medical records.
  • Handle medical billing and coding.
  • Supervise information clerks and medical transcriptionists in large offices or hospitals.
  • Consult with doctors to investigate diagnoses.
  • Use computer software to determine how much insurance companies and Medicare will pay.

HIT Career Outlook

Health Information Technology is a great field to get into right now. A widespread transition from paper to electronic medical records will require newly trained technicians to organize and manage them. Not only are technicians in high demand, but it doesn’t take long to complete your education and become an expert in your field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, (2012-13):

“Employment of medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020.”

What Makes a Good Health Information Technician Degree Program?

Many technical colleges offer a type of HIT program resulting in an Associate degree. These degree programs are typically designed to take less than two years to complete.

A quality HIT program will…

  • Prepare you to take exams to receive in-demand professional certifications.
  • Give you hands-on training in a real medical office environment. This is critical. Search for a program that provides clinical externships.
  • Offer classes to fit your busy schedule. This is especially important if you have a family or a will be working while attending school.
  • Provide career placement services to help you find your new job after you graduate.

Professional Certifications

Many employers may require professional certification for employment; others may pay more for those who are certified in addition to holding a Health Information Technology Degree. Either way, having one or more professional certification can only expand your career opportunities.

Your training should prepare you to sit for a number of professional certification exams, such as:

  • Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (AMBA)
  • Certified Medical Coding Associate (AHIMA)
  • Certified Medical Administrative Specialist (AMT)
  • Certified Healthcare Access Associate (NAHAM)

Clinical Externship

If you can find a program that provides you with a clinical externship in a real medical office, you are in a very good place. An experience like this is incredibly valuable as it gives you real-world, hands-on training in a professional setting. Sometimes, the office where a student will complete their externship will end up hiring them on full-time.

Get Started Today on Your New Career in Healthcare!

If you’re ready to be proud of what you do, find a Health Information Technology degree program today and get started! You’ll never know what you are capable of accomplishing until you do it.