How to Become a Health Information Technician

Written by Kate Lopaze

It used to be that when you’d walk into a doctor’s office, behind the desk there’d be shelves and shelves of bulky patient files, organized alphabetically with neat color-coded tabs. The busier the office, the bigger and more packed those rows of shelves would be. As we move toward a more digital life in general, medical records are following suit—healthcare providers and hospitals are moving patient data off the shelves and into secure databases. These changes call for health information technicians who manage the transition to electronic medical records and maintain the crucial information on a daily basis.

Day-to-Day of the Job

Health information technicians organize, analyze, and maintain patient health information on an ongoing basis. This includes patient background information, information about in-office procedures and tests, and treatment plans. The health information technician is responsible for updating and coding this information in different systems, often using different medical vocabularies and classification systems to make sure that the information is everywhere it needs to be accessible to doctors, nurses, other medical professionals as appropriate, and billing systems. Above all, this info needs to be accurate and secure. (If your personal motto is, “close enough,” then this career path may not be for you.)

This administrative position is typically a 9-to-5 kind of job, with potential overtime in some cases (especially in hospitals or urgent care centers). Health information technicians usually work in hospitals or medical practices, healthcare agencies, and a variety of medical office settings.

Job Requirements

This job typically requires a high school degree at minimum, with an associate’s degree preferred in many cases. Many health information professionals opt for certifications such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), which both require passing a national exam. Certification requirements can depend on location, so be sure to read up on your own state’s rules.

Skills You'll Need

Being a health information technician pulls a number of different skills together, such as strong organizational skills, technical savvy, and the ability to handle confidential data. Attention to detail is essential, as incorrect information can have major consequences for patient healthcare. A background in information technology can be helpful, as is basic knowledge of finance or medical billing. Also, medical environments are often hectic and fast-paced, so candidates should be prepared to work in a variety of conditions.

Pay to Expect

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of health information technicians is $35,900.

The Outlook

Healthcare careers are undoubtedly hot right now. The BLS expects that the demand for health information technicians will grow by 15% by 2022, which is much faster than average. As more and more medical offices make the switch to digital records, this particular area will be one of the biggest growth areas in the medical administration world.

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