Health Information Technology – Which Program is Right for You?

Health Information Technology (HIT) jobs are some of the most in-demand positions in all of healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job outlook in this field is expected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029 (much higher than average).There are a variety of certifications and degrees available within the discipline, with a multitude of applications and career paths. Let’s talk about some of the options and what might best suit your career goals.

Medical Billing & Coding

When most people think about the field of HIT, they think of Medical Billing & Coding. While billing and coding plays a vital role in the processing of a patient’s care records, there are a multitude of applications beyond this setting – we’ll get to those in a minute.

Coding students can sit for three different certification tests with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), ranging from Certified Coding Associate (CCA), to Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and Certified Coding Specialist – Physician Based (CCS-P). Upon completion, coding professionals document patient data in a special code format, one which doctor’s offices, insurance companies and government agencies use for billing, record-keeping and research. With a 2019 median pay of $42,630 per year (BLS), Medical Billing & Coding is a great career choice with strong earning potential.

RHIT and RHIA

Following a coding certification and/or job experience, it’s common for medical professionals to later pursue a further degree in Health Information Management, with certification options as a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and Registered Health Information Associate (RHIA). The biggest difference between the two is in the names – with one being a technical position (RHIT) and the other being managerial (RHIA). To qualify for the RHIT exam, students must complete an associate degree program, while the RHIA exam requires a bachelor’s degree. For both of these careers, professionals have lucrative job opportunities outside of hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Job Opportunities

Although RHITs and RHIAs commonly work in hospitals and other healthcare settings (office-based physician practices, public health agencies, nursing homes, etc.), they can also find employment in a range of settings where patient data or health information is used. Health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and education are all applicable job settings for RHITs and RHIAs and can come with much higher compensations. Not only do these qualifications come with increased salaries – often well into the six-figure range – but it’s an opportunity to choose from a greater selection of career paths.

What’s Right for You?

As many healthcare professionals find out through experience, providing care doesn’t have to be in a direct patient contact setting. In fact, many find working behind the scenes to be a better fit. Medical assistants, nurses, and even doctors change paths to become RHIAs as they seek to understand and improve the processes that drive the medical field forward.

Through AHIMA, certifications in Coding, RHIT and RHIA are nationally applicable and transferrable from state-to-state. Continued educations courses are provided as an annual means of maintaining the certification, but taking the exam is a one-time requirement. Visit our Health Information Technology page for more information on which program at Northwestern College is right for you.