A Day in the Life of a Health Information Technician
Interested in a Health Information Technology Degree?
When you hear the word “healthcare,” many things can come to mind. It’s a huge profession—one of the few that can honestly say it touches the life of virtually every person living in the United States at one point or another. And anytime you visit a physician’s office, hospital, or medical clinic, you’re going to see all kinds of healthcare professionals, working in a broad range of capacities with an equally wide range of responsibilities, functioning together to meet the very distinct needs of each and every patient.
With such a “30,000 foot” view of the healthcare industry, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that each of those healthcare professionals you see is fulfilling a unique role to make that organization’s operation move ahead seamlessly and successfully.
One of those roles, which continues to be transformed by digital technology and is projected to see rapid growth in the coming years, is that of the health information technician.
The adage “no two days are ever the same” is as true in health information as it is in many other professions. Let’s take a glance at a day in the life of someone who has a health information technician degree.
Using Electronic Health Records Classification Software
At the heart of the duties of health information technicians is electronic record keeping, which requires extensive knowledge and comfort working with classification software to categorize medical and clinical codes and patient information. Over the past decade, more healthcare organizations have moved to electronic health records, and more continue to make this transition today. It has greatly streamlined the record-keeping process in healthcare offices, and allows physicians, nurses, and others access to patient information more quickly without having to rifle through mountains of paper files. Healthcare information technicians also use computers and digital technology to maintain records in electronic databases and registries.
Review Patient Files
There’s a lot of information that goes into every patient’s files. Some of this includes their medical history, reported symptoms, exams and treatments, and results from those exams and treatments, among other information. In order for doctors and nurses to deliver the best possible care, they rely on health information that is accurate and complete. So among the many duties fulfilled by a health information technician is reviewing patient records to ensure that all of the information that should be there, is there.
Maintain Health Information in EHR Systems
Again, with so much information to manage and maintain, health information technicians must be organized and have a keen focus on every detail. Additionally, they must have a love of learning as healthcare regulatory requirements are forever evolving. The health information technician must remain current with advances in law to ensure that providers remain compliant with respect to documentation standards. Nowhere is this more relevant than when it comes to reviewing a patient’s health information in his or her electronic records. This means carefully reviewing things like medical history, diagnosis, treatment, and, when there are gaps in the records, tracking down the missing information to make each file as accurate and complete as possible. As a health information technician, you’ll have limited direct contact with patients. You’ll mainly work behind the scenes, communicating with other members of your organization’s healthcare team and outside entities, such as insurance companies. In fact, health information technicians may be employed in any organization that uses patient data or health information, such as pharmaceutical companies, law and insurance firms, and health product vendors. But your work can have a direct impact on everything from the quality of care patients receive to the financial aspects of paying for their treatment.
Communicate With Healthcare Team
Every day health information technicians may find themselves communicating face to face, via telephone, and/or through email with a wide range of healthcare professionals, as well as third-party representatives. This includes physicians, nurses, physician assistants, administrative staff, medical assistants, office managers, and insurance companies. Conversations can range from tracking down an important piece of information for a specific patient’s medical records, to helping a nurse locate things like treatment history, to speaking about patient outcomes for accurate quality assessment, to walking through information with an insurance representative in order to secure insurance reimbursement. This is why it’s important for health information technicians to have strong written and verbal communication skills, confidence, and solid command of medical terminology.
Categorize Information for Insurance Reimbursement
As mentioned, a key duty for health information technicians is to work directly with insurance companies to ensure that their organization receives reimbursement for the treatment and care it delivers. To do this effectively, it takes a meticulous approach to maintaining accurate medical records for every patient, categorizing and coding the information in a way that satisfies the requirements of the insurance providers and follows the appropriate guidelines and legal requirements. Obviously, the revenue that’s brought in for the treatment delivered to patients is the financial lifeblood of any healthcare organization. This is another reason health information technicians are such an important part of the healthcare team—to ensure this gets done accurately and in a timely manner.
Maintain Necessary Privacy and Confidentiality of Patients’ Records
Nothing is more important in terms of the work done by health information technicians than making sure to adhere to the principles of privacy when it comes to patients’ medical records. In fact, a solid understanding of medical law and ethical standards is a key focal point of the education and training that health information technicians should receive before entering the field.
The Path to a Career as a Health Information Technician
To embark on a career as a health information technician, it takes dedication, drive, education and training in an accredited program that’s recognized and respected by employers in the health care industry.
Northwestern College’s Health Information Technology Program
The Health Information Technology program at Northwestern College has been designed to offer students a flexible, convenient, well-rounded educational and training experience that will help prepare them to succeed on day one of their new career in the field.
In addition to program quality, students also benefit from the flexibility of different scheduling options, as well as multiple convenient campus locations—in Chicago and Oak Lawn—and online course delivery. The program offers an ideal path for working adults who want to earn their degree and enter the field without sacrificing their current job or other daily responsibilities.
The program’s curriculum reflects the demands and requirements of today’s health information technicians, with instruction and training in the most current and relevant subject areas. Some of the courses in the program include:
- Coding and Classification Systems—a study of the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting and classification systems for assigning valid diagnostic and procedural codes
- Health Information Supervision, Financial and Resource Management—covering the principles of human resource management and supervision, financial concepts for healthcare managers, and revenue cycle management.
- Information Systems in Healthcare—an introduction to the components of modern electronic health record systems
Students also benefit from the many industry connections that program faculty and administrators have with the healthcare industry in the Chicago area. Northwestern College works hand in hand with area hospitals and medical centers on developing the curriculum, and students complete an externship as part of the program. As a result, they not only have opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in real, meaningful healthcare office settings, but they’re able to start building their professional network for after graduation.