As a health information technologist, you will be responsible for handling the various technical aspects of managing patient health information. Depending upon the organization, you may build, implement or support electronic health records and related systems to store patient data. Health information technologists must understand what data is needed, how to store it and how to use it.
This work greatly affects the quality of care. As health information technologists move up the career ladder, the work becomes more involved with collaborating with other healthcare workers and teams to drive better outcomes, lower costs and improve patient care.
What Is Health Information Technology?
Health information technology involves exchanging health information in an entirely electronic environment. Widespread use of health information technology or HIT is improving the quality of healthcare, preventing medical errors, reducing healthcare costs, and enhancing administrative efficiencies. HIT also maintains the privacy and security of electronic health information.
The healthcare industry is on a tremendous growth path these days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports jobs in healthcare will grow by 18% in the next several years. It is anticipated many of these jobs will be in the health information technology (HIT) space. BLS also reports employment for health information professionals will rise by 15% by 2024, which is much faster than average.
This strong job growth is creating a lack of available candidates for health information technology jobs. A 2017 survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) revealed 61% of healthcare vendors and organizations are expected to hire in the next several years. It is expected that federal mandates for electronic health and medical records will make those with HIT experience in higher demand.
Professionals who earn a degree in health information technology will be able to have their pick of many types of good-paying jobs.
Below is more information about careers available, degree programs and what you need to know to do well in this growing field.
With a health information technology degree, you can find strong demand for your skills in these jobs:
Medical and Health Services Manager
These administrative medical professionals are managers or executives who plan, direct and coordinate various types of healthcare services. These medical management professionals must have a good understanding of both EMR (electronic medical record) and EHR trends. See more careers from Health Administration careers section.
Some of the specific types of management positions available are:
- Nursing home administrator
- Clinical manager
- Health information manager
BLS reports the median salary for this field is $98,500, and the field should grow by nearly 20% by 2026, much faster than average.
Medical Records and Health Information Technician
These in-demand health IT specialists are often referred to as health information technicians, and focus on organizing and managing health data, mostly through the use of modern EHR and EMR systems. They also use a variety of classification systems to categorize and code patient information for the purpose of insurance reimbursement. These workers are always working closely with nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals. See more careers from Health Information Management section.
BLS reports their median salary is $39,000 per year, with the top 10% earning $64,600. BLS states job demand in this field will rise by 13% by 2026, which is faster than average.
These healthcare professionals are responsible for managing and organizing EHR and EMR record systems. According to the American Nurses Association, a nursing informaticist is a person who is responsible for the oversight of the integration of data, knowledge and information to support good decision making by healthcare providers and patients.
The HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey reported the median salary in this field was $93,000 in 2014.
The most common occupation for professionals with an HIT degree is medical and health services manager. As noted earlier, the median salary is $98,350 in this field, and the top 10% earn more than $176,000, although that is for professionals with a master’s degree in most cases. The median wages for this job as of 2017 was as follows in various industries:
- Hospitals: $107,200
- Government: $106,200
- Outpatient care center: $89,900
- Offices of physicians: $89,700
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $82,900
Geographic location is also important for determining your salary in this HIM-related field. US News and World Reports states the following cities have the best salaries for medical and health services managers:
- San Rafael CA: $161,000
- San Jose CA: $159,000
- San Francisco: $151,000
- Vallejo CA: $148,000
- Nassau NY: $145,500
With your degree in health information technology, you will be able to work for many healthcare and medical related organizations. Below are some of the top employers for this type of degree:
- GE Healthcare
Professionals who are interested in a health information technology career have many quality online degree options to consider. It is possible today to earn this coveted degree mostly or entirely online without leaving your home. Some of the online programs in health information technology that result in a bachelor’s degree are:
You can make a difference to help to improve the quality of healthcare through technology with the online bachelor’s degree in health information management. Students are prepared to manage electronic health records and to stay compliant with patient privacy regulations, which are two of the most important skill in health information technology today.
Critical skills you will learn in this online bachelor’s degree program are:
- Learn how to speak in the HIM language – communicate with a healthcare team and other stakeholders in this unique health information technology language.
- Lead with confidence as you apply leadership qualities to health information management in your company.
- Recognize other HIM systems, as you distinguish the unique features and capabilities among other sorts of health information systems.
- See the larger picture as you are able to affect the entire cycle of storage, capture, structure and application of healthcare information.
Sample courses in your online bachelor’s program are:
- Data Management in Health Information Systems
- Electronic Health Records and Health Information Systems
- Decision Support and Quality Management in Health Information Management
- Information Security, Privacy and Ethics in Healthcare
- Health Information Systems and Management
Western Governors University
Western Governors University offers a bachelor of science in health information management that will make you into a highly valuable asset in healthcare information technology and management. After graduating from this four year, 100% online program, you will be eligible to apply for the credentialing examination offered by the Registered Health Information Administrators (RHIA), which can help you to qualify for higher paying positions with more responsibility.
According to WGU’s website, 72% of students finish this program in two to four years, so you can get through the program on your schedule and enter the working world as soon as possible.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may want to earn your master’s degree in this field so you can secure a higher-paying position in health information technology. One option to consider is the Master of Science in Information Technology and Healthcare Informatics at Southern New Hampshire University.
This program will teach you to incorporate advanced technology into facility operations and patient care, reduce medical errors and maximize health care efficiency and improve patient outcomes. Common coursework in this type of master’s program includes healthcare informatics, management of information technology, advanced information technology, object oriented application development, and innovations in information technology.
The good news with many health information technology and related degrees is this is the type of material that can be learned mostly or entirely through some of the best online colleges in the country. The aforementioned bachelor’s and master’s programs are all online. So, you will be able to continue to work on at least a part time basis and obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree education.
Every bachelor’s or master’s program in health information technology can set its own standards of admission.
Depending upon the school and level of degree, common criteria are:
- Related undergraduate degree, if getting a master’s
- College transcripts of all previous college work
- Two or three recommendations
- 5 or higher GPA; could be above 3.0
- GMAT or GRE test scores are required for some master’s programs, unless you qualify for a waiver
- Updated resume
Each program can set its own curriculum, but accredited programs in the health information technology space will have a common curriculum. The health information management and technology curriculum for the WGU program mentioned earlier has been designed to give you a good foundation in computer information systems, including state and federal healthcare regulation, project management of healthcare, databases and security.
Key subject areas also include:
- Classification systems
- Foundations in healthcare data management
- Healthcare ecosystems
- Introduction to pharmacology
- Health information management capstone
- Healthcare reimbursement
- Healthcare statistics and research
Health information technology degrees are increasingly offering more specialties and features because of the high demand in HIT for specific skills, such as:
- Electronic health record (EHR) development and maintenance: The federal mandate for EHRs is opening new doors for health information management, from design and implementation of new systems that ensure information integrity, to collating meaningful use data to introducing healthcare patients to new portals of information.
- Business analytics: The data first needs to be collected, then professionals will be needed to analyze, read and offer suggestions for improvements to make the data more usable. Hospitals are building protocols from large amounts of collected data, and staffing projections are being built from analyzing diagnosis trends and levels of patient admissions. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies also are studying healthcare data to make payment and production decisions and workers are needed with these skills.
- Coding: More healthcare coding experts are needed to assist healthcare providers to change to a new international standard coding system known as ICD-10-CM. This is a new medical classification list that is being used to classify diseases and other types of health problems. This has increased the number of medical codes from 14,000 or so to at least 70,000. As of late 2015, all healthcare office in the US was required to use the ICD-10-CM system. More HIT professionals are needed who can handle this system.
- Meaningful use: Medicaid and Medicare EHR programs offer financial incentives to healthcare organizations for ‘meaningful use’ of certified EHR technology. This refers to using EHRs to enhance quality, safety and care coordination for healthcare providers, and also keeping privacy and security of patient health data.
When you complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health information technology or a related field, there are a lot of costs. Between tuition, books, fees and other costs, it can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. But there are many available grants and scholarships that you can apply for. Some of them are specific to the university, but others may be applied to any accredited program in the US. Below are some options to consider:
- American Health Information Management Association Scholarship: This leading health information technology organization offers $1,000 scholarships each year.
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Scholarship: HIMSS offers $5000 scholarships each year to students who want study healthcare IT and related fields. Offered for bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D.
- Karen Schuvie Scholarship: A scholarship offered through the Kansas Health Information Management Association offered to undergraduates each year in various amounts.
- American Nursing Informatics Association Scholarship: ANIA offers this $3000 scholarship each year for students who are entering health information technology or healthcare informatics in nursing.
Consider obtaining these healthcare IT certifications that will make your resume stand out:
- Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)
- American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) Certification
- Project Management Certification (PMP)
- Certified Professional in Electronic Health Records (CPEHR)
- Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS)
If you desire a career in HIM, it would be wise to review the following associations and groups. These organizations can be helpful for developing your career via networking and education:
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
If you decide to obtain your degree in health information technology, you will have the skills that you need to enjoy a good salary and plenty of job demand in this rapidly-growing area of healthcare.
- Healthcare IT Jobs and Salary. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.usfhealthonline.com/resources/career/health-information-technology-jobs-and-salary-usf-health/
- Medical and Health Services Managers. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-5
- What Health IT Professionals Do. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://himt.wisconsin.edu/about-himt/what-health-it-professionals-do/
- Medical and Health Services Manager Salaries. (2017). Retrieved from https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/medical-and-health-services-manager/salary