One of the fastest-growing areas of the economy is the combination of healthcare and technology.
And one of the fastest-growing careers in healthcare technology is health informatics technician, sometimes called a medical records technician or health information technician.
Whatever the exact title, the job ranks among the fastest growing in the country. Spurred by the now-universal use of electronic healthcare records in medical facilities across the country, the job has become critical to a healthcare organization’s operations.
How critical? The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the career will grow 15 percent between 2014 and 2024. That translates to almost 30,000 new workers entering the field.
Job Duties and Pay
Health informatics technicians work in the growing field of applying technology and data to healthcare operations. Specifically, they focus on the collecting and management of electronic healthcare records for patients.
While duties can vary from job to job, health information technicians typically do the following:
- Master all classification codes to update patient records for insurance claims, ongoing medical treatment and placement on databases and registries
- Ensure that patients’ records are complete with the most up-to-date information, as well as checking them for accuracy
- Use data to track health outcomes for patients, aiding medical professionals in making decisions on treatment strategies
- Record all new data for a patient, including treatment and insurance information
Perhaps most importantly, health information technicians ensure the confidentiality of patient records. This is critical, because the records contain information that includes a patient’s healthcare treatment, medical conditions, prescriptions and insurance information.
Those working in the profession made a median annual salary of $38,040 in May 2016, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent made almost $63,000. Pay is more for those working in hospitals and for firms that provide professional, technical and scientific services to healthcare organizations.
The following steps are needed to enter the field.
Step One: Associate’s Degree
Those who enter this field typically need an associate’s degree in health informatics or health information technology. Coursework involves learning the terminology used in healthcare, the standards for health data collection and storage, classification systems for data, computer systems used to manage electronic healthcare records and reimbursements for healthcare (including insurance, Medicaid and Medicare).
Some also choose to earn a professional certification rather than a two-year degree.
Step Two: Certification
Most healthcare organizations prefer to hire technicians who have earned certification in the profession. This typically involves completing a two-year degree program and then passing an exam. Certifications include the Registered Health Information Technician designation.
Step Three: Experience
To earn some certifications, a healthcare information technician must have experience in the workplace. This proves particularly true for certifications in computer coding. Some states also require a license to handle placing patients on cancer registries. Attaining that license requires earning Certified Tumor Registrar certification.
Step Four: Career Advancement
For those interested in moving into management within the health informatics field, they typically earn a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in health informatics, health information management, healthcare administration or a related field. Some hospitals and other medical facilities may require a master’s degree to reach the top spots within health informatics.
For those with a talent for technology and an interest in healthcare, becoming a technician in healthcare information is a great entry point into a growing industry. With plenty of job opportunities and chances for moving higher up in an organization, health informatics will continue to attract ambitious job seekers.