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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Health Information Technology

Majors Overview June 17, 2014

The healthcare industry uses health IT (information technology) to increase efficiency, improve the quality of healthcare, and reduce healthcare costs. Associate’s degree programs in health IT can provide career opportunities in home health care agencies, clinics, nursing homes, medical practices, and hospitals.

Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree Programs in Health Information Technology

Students enrolled in health information technology associate degree programs have to complete a combination of courses in information technology, business, and health care. Students will become adept at collecting and organizing information.

During the program, students also will become experts in managing and coding medical information found in medical records; arranging and analyzing coded information from medical records for the purposes of reimbursement, retrieving, and inputting medical information; and compiling information for registries and research studies.

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Students are also expected to be proficient in keyboarding.

Coursework

Coursework involves examination of physiology and anatomy, database management, data coding, and legalities of health information. Additionally, clinical practicum is held to impart hands-on experience to students. Coursework may include the following topic areas:

•Health care ethics
•Insurance and reimbursement processing
•Health information systems
•Medical terminology
•Management in health organizations
•Electronic health records

Career Choices

Graduates are trained to seek entry-level jobs in the health care industry that involve working with health information and medical records. They can choose from various career options:

•Health information technician
•Medical coder
•Medical records technician
•Coding specialist

Continuing Education Choices

Professional certification and continued education are two avenues that can lead to career enhancement for health information technicians. Technicians with bachelor’s or master’s degrees can seek entry-level careers in health information management. Although professional certification is not mandatory for medical records and health information technicians, many employers prefer candidates with certification.

The Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) to those that graduate from two-year accredited health IT programs. Passage of a written exam is essential to earning the RHIT credential.

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS), and the Board of Medical Specialty Coding and Compliance (BMSC) all offer certifications for medical coders and coding specialists. The BMSC and PAHCS offer certification for specialty coding.

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