How to Become a Medical Records or Health Information Technician
Health information technicians organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries.
Health information technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate to enter the occupation, although some may need an associate’s degree. Certification is often required.
Postsecondary certificate and associate’s degree programs in health information technology typically include courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, communication, health data requirements and standards, classification and coding systems, healthcare reimbursement methods, healthcare statistics, and computer systems. Applicants to health information technology programs may increase their chances of admission by taking high school courses in health, computer science, math, and biology.
A high school diploma or equivalent and previous experience in a healthcare setting are enough to qualify for some positions, but most jobs for health information technicians require postsecondary education.
Analytical skills. Health information technicians must understand and follow medical records and diagnoses, and then decide how best to code them in a patient’s medical records.
Detail oriented. Health information technicians must be accurate when recording and coding patient information.
Integrity. Health information technicians work with patient data that are required, by law, to be kept confidential. They must exercise discretion and a strong sense of ethics when working with this information in order to protect patient confidentiality.
Interpersonal skills. Health information technicians need to be able to discuss patient information, discrepancies, and data requirements with other professionals such as physicians and finance personnel.
Technical skills. Health information technicians must use coding and classification software and the electronic health record (EHR) system that their healthcare organization or physician practice has adopted.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most employers prefer to hire health information technicians who have certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. A health information technician can earn certification from several organizations. Certifications include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR), among others.
Some organizations base certification on passing an exam. Others require graduation from an accredited program. Many coding certifications also require coding experience in a work setting. Once certified, technicians typically must renew their certification regularly and take continuing education courses.
A few states and facilities require cancer registrars to be certified. Certification as a Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) requires completion of a formal education program and experience, along with passing an exam.
Technicians may advance to a position as a medical or health services manager after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree program and taking the required certification courses. Requirements vary by facility.