Finding Your Niche

There are things you learn during the course of your education that may pique your interest or with which you feel an especially strong connection. It is part of a student’s experience to be conscious of those connections, and identify why those connections are so strong. For example, if you like reading through medical documentation and deciphering medical terms to determine the course of treatment, then you may exhibit the following:

  • Increased attention to detail
  • Interest in one or more of the following medical sciences: medical terminology, anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, or pharmacology
  • Interest in puzzles/riddles
  • Methodical in nature

Health Information Technology (HIT) provides the foundation for understanding the dynamics of health information systems across the nation. The niche of your interest may fall into one or more areas of HIT. It is critical that a HIT student understands the theories and concepts associated with the practices of Health Information Management (HIM). As HIT related theories and concepts come together for students during the completion of their program, students have a better understanding of what they want to do once they start their professional journey.

For instance, coding is a skill that relies on the understanding of the human body and its functions. Coding requires the understanding of medical terms used in a medical record to determine the most appropriate code that represents that service or hospital stay.

The following table is a brief example of how medical terminology translates into an ICD-10-CM (designated code set) code.

General Medical TermCode Book Identification of TermActual Code
Hypertension (High BP)Essential (primary) hypertensionI10
AsthmaUnspecified asthma, uncomplicatedJ45.909
DiabetesType 2 diabetes mellitus without complicationsE11.9
Prostate CancerMalignant neoplasm of prostateC61

Based the example above, this is one skill that an HIT student must obtain in an accredited HIT program. This particular skill comprises 18% of the national exam specifications for the Registered Health Information Technology (RHIT) exam that is offered through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The remaining exam specifications are in the following areas:

  • Data Analysis and Management (20%)
  • Compliance (16%)
  • Information Technology (12%)
  • Quality (12%)
  • Legal (11%)
  • Revenue Cycle (11%)

In addition, there are positions strictly dedicated to the coding function in multiple healthcare settings, and coders may use more than one designated code set to perform the function in its entirety. Once a professional has a mastery skill set, they move on to learn other modalities to broaden their knowledge. Others may master the skill, and move on to something totally different, which is where the flexibility of HIT comes in.

Even though this is a subset of many skills in HIT, employers are looking for the relevant credentials to be considered a qualified candidate for a HIT related position. The RHIT credential shows that you have the minimum skills necessary to perform within a department on multiple capacities. So, it is especially important that students sit for the RHIT exam once they have completed an accredited HIT program.

As a result, students must learn all the necessary components in HIT to understand what it is that they want to do. Students may discover their niche through textbooks, through the use of simulated activities, or through their Professional Practicum Experience (PPE). A PPE is a capstone course where the student has the opportunity to showcase their skills at a designated site; this is known as an externship here at Northwestern College.

What is, or what will be, your niche in HIT? Let us help you find out.