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

Majors Overview February 17, 2014

Health information technology is one career out of a few where individuals can work without having patient contact. Instead, clerical work in an office setting is what these professionals do. Graduates of this program may work as clinical coders, health record technicians, and data coordinators and analysts.

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

Students enrolled in these programs are typically prepared to seek entry-level jobs as health information technicians, specializing in the processing of medical records in home healthcare agencies, clinics, physicians’ offices and hospitals. Apart from coding healthcare data for reimbursement and statistical purposes, candidates are trained in the maintenance of patient files, analysis of statistical health information and evaluation of healthcare data.

These programs commonly help in the development of professional skills of students in problem solving, critical thinking and business communications. Technical schools and community colleges typically offer these programs that take two years to complete. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.

Coursework

Coursework is typically a combination of classroom lectures and supervised clinical studies devised to give students hands-on experience. Students may also take courses helpful in preparation for certification exams. Schools may offer courses in an online format. Coursework typically includes topic areas such as:

•Computerized health information systems
•Legal aspects in health information
•Medical insurance and reimbursement methodologies
•Pathophysiology
•Health information management
•Coding and reimbursement
•ICD-9-CM coding
•Medical terminology

Career Choices

Those who successfully complete the program may seek entry-level jobs in various healthcare institutions such as managed care facilities, physicians’ offices and hospitals and commonly aim for career titles such as:

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

Continuing Education Choices

Those who successfully complete these associate’s degree programs can aspire to join the work force immediately or pursue continued education. Medical records and health information technicians can seek managerial positions in the industry if they can earn bachelors or master’s degrees and augment these with professional certifications. They can enhance their job opportunities with adequate work experience added to advanced specialty certifications. Although certification is not mandatory, most job givers prefer certified technicians.

Passage of a written exam can qualify program graduates to obtain the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The Board of Medical Specialty Coding & Compliance (BMSC), the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) are other organizations that offer certifications to these professionals. Specialty coding certifications are offered by both the BMSC and the PAHCS.

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