If you're a fan of TV medical shows, you'll see lots of doctors, nurses and paramedics. Paper-shufflers from the administrative office don't show up very often, unless they're cutting somebody's budget. In real life, no hospital or clinic would survive long without its clerical staff. Keeping accurate records of a patient's treatment, and billing for services, is the industry's life's blood. If you're in healthcare information technology, earning certification as Registered Health Information Technician can be a major career-builder.
The RHIT credential is administered by the American Health Information Management Association, or AHIMA. To be eligible, you have to complete an associate's degree program in health information management that's been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Health Informatics and Information Management Education. If you already hold a degree in a related field, you can take the training as an accredited one-year certificate program. You can sign up to take the exams if you're in the last term of your training program, or if you've graduated but haven't received your official transcripts yet.
Once you're trained and certified, you can find work in a number of settings. Most RHITs work in hospitals, but law firms, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies also need data management staff. Your job duties might include basic record-keeping, coding and billing, but you might also supervise coding staff with lower levels of training or certification than your own. As you gain experience and broaden your knowledge of the field, you can move quickly into a management or administrative role. The process is faster if you upgrade your qualifications.
If you want to play a larger role in information management, AHIMA offers a handful of upgraded certifications. For example, if you go back to school and take a bachelor's degree in health information management from an accredited program, you can become a Registered Health Information Administrator. You'd learn the management and technical skills needed to move up into a supervisory role. RHITs and RHIAs can also become certified health data analysts, or CHDAs, using sophisticated software to convert raw health data into usable statistics. AHIMA's Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security credential, or CHPS, is for RHITs and RHIAs who specialize in protecting patient data.
Although AHIMA's certification programs can be important to your career, they're not the only game in town. You can also pump up your resume by earning additional degrees. For example, some schools offer master's or doctoral degrees in health information management. If you're interested in the technical side of the industry, IT degrees or certifications in programming and database design can raise your profile in a hurry. Staff who can design or improve software, as well as use it, are always at a premium. If you're more interested in management, a degree in business or healthcare administration can open the doors to the highest positions in your organization.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
- American Health Information Management Association: Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
- American Health Information Management Association: Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)
- American Health Information Management Association: Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)
- American Health Information Management Association: Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.