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Guide to Health Information Technology

What is health information technology?

Each time someone is injured or seeks medical treatment, from a physical exam to a flu shot to cancer treatment, a medical record of that event is noted. Notes, health care observations, and treatments are created and stored. Health care information is critical to providing quality health care. Consequently, a variety of health information is recorded

health information technology

Nature of Work

The field of health information technology covers managing all aspects of patient medical records. All patient records must be accurately identified, complete, and signed. Health information technologists initiate the records management process by ensuring patient medical records are complete. Health information technology includes managing medical records about patient diagnoses, previous treatments, prior medical history, medical test reports, and patient symptoms. Other information technicians are specialists performing medical insurance coding.

Technologists and technicians frequently communicate with health care staff and physicians. They ensure patient records meet standard records requirements, obtain supplementary information, and confirm medical diagnoses needed for patient file updates. Patient information is entered into a patient records database and continuously updated.

Health information professionals are expected to exhibit good oral and written communication skills. Professionals serve as intermediates of communication between health care staff, insurance providers, and other businesses. Candidates skilled with computer technology and software are most attractive to prospective employers with electronic health records system on the horizon or in place. Continuing education is expected of technicians, so candidates should love to learn.

Prior to recently developed medical automation tools such as patient record databases, medical records were paper based. Forms, folders and files were archives for complex information for millions of patients worldwide. Emerging government efforts are aiming to apply advanced technology regularly utilized in health care to health care information management.

Health information staff typically work 40 hours in an office. In 2008, approximately 14% of staff worked part time hours. The hours worked depend on the facility hours of operation. This occupation is among the few health-related occupations that do not provide direct patient care.

Occupational Outlook

The health care technology movement will drive up the career outlook for Health Information careers. The field will become as sophisticated as the available technology. Trained professionals will be needed to effectively manage health information. The continued retirement of Baby Boomers will continue to swell the ranks of those seeking health care and drive up the need for patient records management professionals.

Occupational growth will be the product of increased treatments, procedures and medical tests. An aging population will boost the numbers of health-related problems. Cancer registrars are expected to experience employment growth because of expected increases of cancer within an aging population. Additionally, as more health records are transitioned to electronic media, there will be an increased need for technicians who can participate in management of electronic data.

Earnings

In May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, health information and medial records technicians earned $30,610 in annual median wages. The median annual salary in industries employing the most technicians in May 2008 were the Federal Executive Branch ($42,760), general/surgical hospitals ($32,600), nursing facilities ($30,660), outpatient centers ($29,160) and physician offices ($26,210).

Employment Projection

By the year 2018, career forecasts for information and medical records technologists is that employment expected to increase by 20%, creating 35,100 more jobs for a total of 207,600, outpacing other occupations.

What is health information technology? It is the future.