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Should I Pursue a Health Information Technology Associate Degree Program?

Majors Overview February 18, 2014

Students can be prepared for administrative positions or patient care with various educational programs offered in the healthcare technology field, but programs aimed towards healthcare technology are usually not available. At the associate’s degree level, surgical technology and health information technology are two fields that are taught.

A.A. Programs in Health Information Technology

Students enrolled in this 2-year program are helped to prepare for entry-level careers in health information technology doing work that involves processing of medical records in healthcare agencies. Students can expect to become adept at coding healthcare data for reimbursement and statistical objectives, analyzing health information and maintaining patient files, in addition to developing the professional skills they would need to succeed in this field. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.

Coursework

Coursework combines classroom lectures and seminars with clinical studies done under supervision aimed at obtaining hands-on training in the coding of patient care records. Students can also use the courses as preparation to take certification examinations. Courses may typically include:

•ICD-9-CM healthcare coding systems
•CPT coding
•Quality improvement in healthcare
•Health statistics and registries
•Human diseases
•Health information systems
•Anatomy and physiology
•Medical terminology
•Visual basic programming
•Reimbursement methods

Career Choices

Graduates can become adept at processing and managing data in various healthcare settings, including physician offices, hospitals and clinics and choose from career titles such as:

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

Continuing Education Choices

Medical health technicians and coders can seek entry-level careers or pursue continued education. They can aspire for managerial positions in the industry by enrolling for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Candidates with professional certification may be preferred by employers.

Passage of a written exam will enable eligible applicants to earn the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Other credentialing agencies include the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Board of Medical Specialty Coding & Compliance (BMSC) and the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS). Specialty coding certifications are offered by both the BMSC and the PAHCS.

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