What Is a Health Information Technologist?
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Knowing what a health information technologist is can help you discover what you need to do in order to have a successful career in the field. Regardless of your previous educational and professional experience, knowing the exact job requirements for the role of health information technologist can help you prepare for the role. Working as a health information technologist can be a lucrative and fulfilling career move, but it requires research and determination. In this article, we discuss what a health information technologist is, what they do, how to become one and the most important skills for the role.
What is a health information technologist?
A health information technologist, also called a health information technology specialist, is responsible for handling all technical aspects regarding managing patient health information. They are typically tasked with creating, implementing or maintaining various electronic health record databases and have access to all information regarding how data is stored and used.
Maintaining an easily accessible patient information database can significantly improve the quality of a health facility's patient services and experienced health information technologists often work with healthcare teams and healthcare facility management to find ways in which they can improve the quality and lower the costs of patient information management.
Related: 14 Jobs for Medical Technologists
What are a health information technologist's main duties?
There are many specific roles and specializations for health information technology professionals. Those working in smaller facilities typically need to have enough expertise to work with many different patient database software applications and be involved in all stages of implementation, from gathering and adding data to performing database maintenance services. Those working in larger facilities, however, are usually part of a larger team and only specialize in a single software application or set of tasks.
As a general rule, most health information technologies work in one of three departments:
Health IT, which deals with the implementation and subsequent maintenance of electronic health record systems
Health information management, which specializes in managing, protecting and maintaining the quality of patient data
Data analytics, which specializes in conducting various studies and analyses with the purpose of improving the way patient information is stored and accessed
What is a health information technologist's work environment?
Given the rapid expansion of electronic systems used for keeping medical records, health information technologists are needed in most healthcare facilities of any kind. Most of them, however, work in clinics and hospitals, but some work in nursing homes, dental offices, chiropractic offices and other similar facilities. Some also work directly for the companies that create the software that medical facilities use to store patient information, either as consultants or as members of the design team.
Those working in hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities that require non-stop working hours typically work in shifts and have schedules that may include nights, weekends and holidays.
What education do health information technologists need?
Health information technologists require at least a bachelor's degree in health information management or a similar field to be eligible for the role. Students who earn a health information management degree learn how to improve healthcare systems and medical infrastructures, evaluate various health policy enforcing methods and use computer software to gather and analyze data. The bachelor's program takes four years to complete.
What training and certifications do health information technologists need?
Graduating with a bachelor's degree in health information management gives you the knowledge you need to earn health IT certifications. Some of the most important are:
Registered health information administrator certification: Passing the certification exam certifies you as a health information administrator
Certified professional coder: It requires you to complete the Medical Coding Career Accelerator Program and it is the best rated medical coding certification in the industry
CompTIA Project+ certification: This certification is available free of charge for all health information management students and gives you project management knowledge and skills.
Aside from these certifications, aspiring health information technologists need to gain direct experience in the medical field, in roles related to either administrative or clinical work. Also, those who want to eventually reach management-level status can also pursue a master's degree.
What are the main skills of a health information technologist?
Given the fact that health information technologists need solid knowledge of both healthcare and IT, their skill set is usually very diverse. Some of the most important skills for the role are:
Tech skills: Health information technologists need to always be up to date with the latest health technology developments and understand complex patient information software systems.
Communication skills: Most health information technologists work alongside other medical staff or insurance professionals. They need to constantly communicate with all parties to ensure that the software systems are being used effectively and efficiently.
Problem-solving skills: Both the IT and medical domains are typically fast-paced environments that require quick solutions to unexpected issues. Health information technologists need to use their knowledge and experience to provide those solutions in due time.
Attention to detail: When working with large amounts of data, even a minor overlooked detail can lead to inaccurate results. Health information professionals need to have above-average attention to detail and always make sure every variable is accounted for.
Organizational skills: Given the fact that most health information technologists are exposed to large amounts of data and information on a daily basis, they need to be highly organized and make sure that everything is stored in a way that makes them easy to find and access in the future.
Industry knowledge: Health information is a field on its own and specialists in this field need to know all developments and terminology associated with it.
Average salary and job outlook for health information technologists
According to Indeed careers, the average yearly wage for a health information technologist in is $45,550 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics mentions that the number of jobs for medical records and health information technicians is expected to grow by 8% until 2029, which is much faster than the national average.
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