Pros and Cons of a Career in Health Information Systems
According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) health information management is the acquisition, analyzing and preservation of medical information necessary to provide quality patient care. Below is a table comparing some of the features of a career as a medical transcriptionist, medical records and health information technician and medical and health services manager
|Medical Transcriptionist||Medical Records and Health Information Technician||Healthcare Administrator|
|Career Overview||Medical transcriptionists listen to recorded reports of physicians and transcribe them into written form.||Medical records and health information technicians organize, classify and code health information from various sources.||Healthcare administrators are responsible for coordinating all aspects of medical and health services of a department or facility.|
|Education Requirements||Certificate or associate's degree||Certificate or associate's degree||Bachelor's or master's degree|
|Program Length||1-2 years||1-2 years||4-6 years (depending on if you go for the master's degree)|
|Certification and Licensing||Certification is optional||Certification is often preferred||Certification voluntary. Licensure mandatory for nursing home administrators and in some states for long-term care administrators|
|Experience Required||None; entry level||None; entry level||Some facilities prefer some qualifying work experience|
|Job Outlook for 2012-2022||As fast as average (8%)*||Much faster than average (22%)*||Much faster than average (23%)*|
|Mean Salary (2014)||$35,580*||$38,860*||$103,680*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A medical transcriptionist is responsible for listening to and transcribing recorded information calls. To succeed in the position, you should have a familiarity with medical terms, computer and typing skills, good time management abilities and good communication skills. A transcriptionist must also have an ear for any inconsistencies that might compromise the accuracy of the report. Depending on company policy, you may be able to perform your duties at you home computer.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in order to become a medical transcriptionist, you need a certain amount of formal postsecondary training. Community colleges may offer programs leading to a 1-year certificate or 2-year associate's degree in medical transcription technology. You may have the opportunity to serve an internship or complete a practicum. While certification is not required, you may find it advantageous to earn a credential. In order to become certified, you must complete a program that has been accredited by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).
Below are examples of what some employers were looking for in November 2012:
- A hospital in Minnesota wanted to hire a part-time medical transcriptionist. Applicants were to have at least one year of postsecondary training as a medical transcriptionist or medical secretary. The employer preferred to hire an individual who held certification.
- An Arizona healthcare facility was looking for a full-time medical transcriptionist. A high school diploma or GED was required. Applicants were to be proficient in medical terminology and have completed a course or program in medical transcription and have accumulated one year of qualifying work experience. The employer preferred to hire a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) who was familiar with hand surgery.
- An Ohio hospital sought applicants for a full-time position as a medical secretary/transcriptionist. Candidates were to hold an associate's degree and have one year of work experience, preferably in oncology. Licensed practical nurses and radiation therapists were also considered for the position.
Along with proper English usage skills, excellent listening and keyboarding skills and a strong background in medical terminology, certification is one of the most important factors that will make you stand out in the field. If you're a recent graduate of an accredited program, have less than two years of experience or work in a single specialty environment, you may qualify to sit for the AHDI examination leading to a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) designation. If you're an RMT with at least two years of experience in an acute care facility or practice in a multi-specialty environment, you may qualify to sit for the AHDI Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) examination. In order to continue certification, RMTs must take a recertification course every three years, while CMTs must accumulate 30 continuing education credits every three years.
Medical Records and Health Information Technician
All the information about a patient's medical history is worthless unless it's accurate and organized in a secure manner so that it can be accessed easily by clinical and administrative personnel. It's the job of the medical records and health information technician to see that this task is accomplished. They do this using systems that produce digital and traditional paper records that can cover everything from diagnoses and patient treatments to insurance reimbursement information.
The BLS asserts that medical records and health information technicians may be able to secure a position after having completed a postsecondary certificate program. You may be able to earn a certificate without earning a degree. You may also be able to earn a post-degree certificate if you hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in a non-information technology field.
However, you might be better off earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in health information technology, as these can better prepare you for certification. The BLS states that most employers prefer that you be certified. Several organizations offer certification, and you can become a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) by passing an examination through AHIMA. In order to qualify to sit for a certification exam, you must have completed a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). CAHIIM only accredits associate's and bachelor's degree programs. In order to maintain certification, you're required to complete a certification-specific number of continuing education credits every two years.
Here is what employers in November 2012 were seeking:
- A clinic in Florida was looking for a full-time health information technician. Candidates were required to be high school graduates with computer experience. Candidates were also to have 1-2 years of work experience with medical records and be familiar with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) procedures. The employer preferred that candidates hold RHIT certification.
- An Illinois healthcare management company wanted to hire one or two individuals to fill the positions of health information services coding specialist and health information technician. Candidates were to hold an associate's degree and have at least two years of qualifying work experience. Certified Professional Coder (CPC) or Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) credentials were preferred, as was RHIT certification for the information technology position.
- A medical center in Hawaii was seeking a full-time health information coder/abstractor. To be considered, candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree and have at least one year of qualifying work experience. Candidates were to be familiar with ICD-9-CM and CPT4/HCPCS coding. Though RHIA certification was preferred, candidates holding CCS or RHIT certification were also considered.
A program leading to an associate's degree, or better yet a bachelor's degree, can help to set you off from others who hold only an undergraduate, non-degree certificate. Although some certifications are available with only a high school education or a certificate, a degree from a CAHIIM-accredited program can be your passport to more important, wider ranging certifications. Certifications can enhance your standing and testify to your commitment and professionalism.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Also known as healthcare administrators, these individuals make certain that all parts of the healthcare delivery and information systems work efficiently. They develop delivery plans, set policy and monitor implementation. Working with clinical professionals, they make certain that policies reflect regulatory changes and try to see to it that the technology used is current and can adapt to meet the changing needs of the patient population and the facility itself.
As stated by the BLS, a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a healthcare administrator. Though specific requirements are determined by individual facilities, master's degrees are becoming more and more common in the field. Often, a bachelor's degree in health administration may be coupled with a master's degree in health services, public health, or business or public administration. On-the-job training or extensive experience in the administrative end of a field such as physical therapy or rehabilitative services may qualify you for a position as a healthcare administrator.
According to the BLS, all states require you to be licensed if you secure a position as the administrator of a nursing home. Some states also require long-term care facility administrators to be licensed. Depending on your location, if you meet the education and/or experience requirements, you may qualify for state licensure by sitting for a state and/or a national exam. The state exam is overseen by your state's board of health. The national exam is administered under the auspices of the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB). The credential is Nursing Home Administrator (NHA). A number of states also recognize certification conferred by the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA).
The following are examples of some employment ads that ran in November 2012:
- A healthcare company in California was looking for a full-time nursing home administrator/executive director. Candidates were to have a solid business background with a bachelor's degree in either business or healthcare administration. Candidates were to hold an active state license as an NHA. Applicants were to have extensive experience in the field, having dealt with government regulations and Medicare/Medicaid procedures.
- An Indiana healthcare center wanted to hire a full-time nursing home administrator. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and be licensed in Indiana as a Health Facility Administrator (H.F.A.). Candidates were to have at least three years of leadership experience in the healthcare field, with at least two of those years being spent as an NHA.
- In North Carolina, a nursing and rehabilitation center was seeking a long-term care administrator. The employer preferred to consider applicants who held a 4-year degree and had at least four years of supervisory experience at a nursing home facility, Candidates were to hold a state NHA license.
In one form or another, more education can help you advance your career. At a small facility, you may have to wear a number of hats and fill in at different positions on occasion. In order to signify to your potential employer that your abilities have a wide scope, you may want to consider becoming AHIMA- certified in a number of areas. In addition, RHIA certification by the AHIMA can only help you stand out. If you meet education and experience requirements, you may also want to consider earning a credential as a Certified Professional Medical Services Manager (CPMSM) from the National Association of Medical Staff Services (NAMSS). The BLS also notes that a master's degree in health services administration or a similar area can often serve to enhance your advancement potential.