Patient information is an invaluable resource. Using patient histories, physicians keep track of how to care for patients, and learn new ways to improve medicine. Caregivers use technology to manage the large data volumes created by patient medical records and trust specially trained individuals to maintain the data’s integrity. Health information technology specialists train in business, healthcare and information technology. Organizations ranging from private practices to large healthcare providers rely on these individuals to manage information vital to caregiving operations, and as the field expands, career opportunities grow proportionally.
Using Information to Heal
Caregiving establishments must store patient records for later access.  Institutions may access the records individually or evaluate group metrics to develop community interventions. Health information management involves digitally gathering, storing and protecting this data. The discipline combines healthcare, business and technology. Healthcare information specialists work with varying establishments, ranging from private practices to large caregiving networks. These individuals play a critical role in daily operations.
Technology Aids the Process
Health information technology (HIT) systems enable caregivers to manage patient records digitally. HIT specialists practice within the technical arena of caregiving, providing support for electronic health records (EHRs), among other information systems, and help medical organizations stay current with technological developments. Some HIT specialists work closely with physicians and other medical professionals. This skill is in high demand due to new regulations that require caregiving establishments to digitize medical records.
Preparation for a Critical Role
A career in healthcare information technology requires training in computer science, medicine and business management.  Additionally, individuals who work in this field must have a genuine desire to help others and the ability to handle a large workload with accuracy and organization. Potential HIT candidates can begin preparation for this career track with advanced classes at the high school level, followed by education at an appropriate higher learning institution. Advanced education can be through a Master of Science in Health Informatics and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Health Informatics.
Certification Is Essential
In addition to a degree, HIT specialist candidates may obtain certification. For medical coding, individuals may earn the entry level Certified Coding Associate (CCA) certification, or for experienced coders, the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) or Certified Coding Specialist-Physician Based (CCS-P). To apply for the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification, applicants must earn an associate’s degree. The certification informs employers that a HIT specialist has demonstrated competence in technical skills related to patient information. The Registered Health Information Administration (RHIA) certification requires a bachelor’s degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management, and qualifies candidates as HIT managers.
Health Information Career Paths
Health information technology professionals can follow several career paths. Health information technicians validate patient database information and abstract data for reimbursement or research. Medical coders translate diagnoses and procedures into numerical codes. Caregiving establishments rely on these specialists to record information accurately. Healthcare information managers oversee the collection, privacy, and analysis of patient data.
A Closer Look at the Health Information Technician Career
Certified, non-degreed Health information technicians earn around $37,000 annually.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that almost 200,000 individuals held the position in 2014 and forecasts a precipitous, 15-percent growth rate through 2024.
Health information technicians secure employment in private offices and hospitals. The demand for these professionals increases as more medical institutions adopt digital patient record keeping practices.
In addition to gathering information that assists physicians with patient care, health information technicians produce medical reports and code procedures.  Regardless of size or location, healthcare establishments require specialists that can competently manage patient and insurance information. Health information technicians prepare reports to assist health information administrators with their work and have little contact with patients. Many individuals use the position as an entry point into the health information field after earning their associate’s degree.
Health information technology allows caregiving enterprises to serve current and future health needs. Patient medical records contain information stores that enable physicians to safely and effectively practice healing. Health information technology specialists manage patient records with diligence and precision. Medical organizations need these professionals to manage patient records to continue providing effective service. As a result, career growth will continue as America’s healthcare needs escalate.
The University of Illinois at Chicago delivers some of the most innovative and comprehensive Health Informatics and Health Information Management programs in the country. Our advanced degree and certificate programs can prepare you to make an immediate impact within your organization and play a vital role in the evolution of the healthcare industry as a whole.