A health information technician, also called a medical records technician, is responsible for managing medical records within healthcare settings. A medical record holds important information about a patient, including details of his or her insurance, diagnoses, and treatment. Ensuring these records are accurate and in order are vital duties in the health information technician role. A process called medical coding is typically one of the main duties.
Medical coding usually involves analyzing patient records and assigning the appropriate codes to each piece of diagnostic or treatment information. These codes are partly for the benefit of insurers, who need to determine the costs owed to the healthcare provider. The information from coding can also be used for research purposes, both inside and outside the healthcare setting. Some health information technicians may specialize in medical coding.
Cancer registry is another area where a health information technician can specialize. A vast amount of data on cancer patients is recorded over time, and this can be compared to offer insights into treatment approaches and preventive measures. Cancer registries from different healthcare organizations are sometimes combined and analyzed by specialist health information workers. Specializing in medical coding or cancer registry may not be possible without specific training.
Many different healthcare settings, such as hospitals, health centers, and nursing homes, all call for health information technicians. Pharmaceutical companies and law firms are examples of other workplaces that store patient data, and therefore may employ health information technicians. An office-based working environment is typical, and he or she will probably have his or her work overseen by senior office staff. There are sometimes opportunities to progress to senior health information roles.
A health information technician uses computers on a daily basis, and so must be computer savvy. Attention to detail, a commitment to patient confidentiality, and a willingness to work unsociable hours are also useful attributes in health information roles. Although health information technicians are unlikely to frequently interact with patients, communication skills are essential for exchanging information with other healthcare workers.
The qualifications required for health information posts vary depending on location and employer. In the US, some community colleges offer associate degree programs specifically aimed at those interested in health information careers. On completion of a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredited course, a candidate can choose to take an exam to be a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). The American Health Information Management Association can be contacted for more information.