Health Information Technology: A Healthcare Career of the Future

Published - June 2, 2020

Health Information Technologists: Who are they? What do they do? And why do they matter?

So you’ve just booked yourself a doctor’s appointment. You’ve been meaning to go for months now, but you just kept putting it off—until now. You arrive at the clinic and walk up to the desk to check-in. The front desk receptionist hands you a clipboard with documents for you to fill out, and you do so, happily. You hand it back to the associate and they review your forms. After waiting for some time; you are called by your last name, invited to the treatment room where the medical professionals review your concerns, treat those concerns, and then send you back to the receptionist where you may receive any prescriptions and book any future visits. Wasn’t that easy?

Often, when we visit the doctor’s office, or go to the hospital, we overlook all of the various intake forms and information we give to our healthcare professionals, forgetting that those documents and that information have to be stored somewhere. What happens after that medical receptionist takes your forms? Well, they are then inputted, in the form of EHR’s, into that office’s system by a Health Information Technology professional. HIT professionals are the backbone of the healthcare system, supporting clinics, hospitals, private practices and every single healthcare institution an individual might pass through.

But what is a Health Information Technology professional? Who are they? Why would a person become a HIT professional, and does it matter? Where and in what settings do HIT professionals work? When do HIT professionals see career growth? And ultimately, to start, how does one become an HIT professional? This article will break down the emerging importance of the Health Information Technology profession as part of the broader healthcare industry, and identify key metrics and facts about HIT careers that will help those considering a career in the healthcare sector to better understand the function and utility of HIT skills.

Starting out: What is a Health Information Technology Professional and why would I become one?

As pointed out above, a Health Information Technology professional is a key personnel in any healthcare system. Behind every doctor’s practice, dental office, specialty clinic and every conceivable form of healthcare is an HIT function.

Health Information, usually kept in the form of EHRs – electronic health records – are a specific way of capturing, archiving and accessing healthcare records. Across a diversity of systems, HIT professionals are trained in a standard set of protocols, processes and skills that can be deployed in the total range of healthcare settings. HIT professionals aren’t just receptionists or associates either; they are information architects, system’s administrators, programmers, and much more. And beyond working with EHRs, HIT professionals often act as consultants between practitioners and administrators, making them a key link in the chain of communication within any healthcare setting.

In order to become a HIT professional, you will need to obtain a degree focusing on the various competencies required by law to be a part of the healthcare industry. Certain degrees, such as the HIT degree offered at CBD College, are Associate’s degrees with access to further certifications such as the RHIT, which can only be administered by CAHIIM-accredited institutions. This certification will help define the roadmap for career growth in an HIT profession, and lays out the core tenets and best practices that any HIT professional will be guided by for the totality of their career arc.

So why pursue a job as an HIT professional? Industry analysts project that by 2028, there will be over 1.9 million new jobs added in the healthcare industry, and many of these will be technical and infrastructure-oriented, making a HIT degree and the accompanying certifications in high-demand.

Where and in what settings do HIT Professionals work?

This is perhaps the easiest question to answer: HIT professionals work anywhere healthcare is performed! In a major way, all healthcare institutions and functions rely heavily on the presence and staffing of HIT professionals in order to allow practitioners of all types, and administrators of all levels, communicate effectively, expediently and with ease.

Some typical settings HIT professionals can often find employment include: inpatient rehabilitation facilities, acute and urgent care hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics, mental health facilities, short-medium-and-long term care centers, and outpatient facilities. But one of the lesser known facets of HIT work is that it is one of the few lines of work within the healthcare industry in which there is no direct hands-on patient care. While most HIT professionals do work in offices, hospitals, clinics and the like, many technicians also work remotely, might travel regularly as part of their employment, or can do their job from the comfort of their own home.

As the healthcare industry continues to grow and evolve, so will settings in which HIT professionals will be a cornerstone employment type, as well.

When can an HIT professional expect to see career growth?

By industry figures, HIT professionals can expect high-grow careers. While many will start out as associates focused inputting and archiving EHR and other physical-to-digital record keeping, or working within IT systems across a diverse range of healthcare scenarios, HIT-trained and disciplined workers have the opportunity to carve out exciting and unique paths within the broader industry. At present, one of the most in-demand executive level positions within hospital systems and institutions of scale is the CIO – Chief Information Officer. Essentially, the head of all HIT within a system. There are multiple disciplines within that c-suite apparatus that HIT professionals can strive toward, and the necessity of them within medium and large healthcare systems is becoming more relevant every year.

HIT professionals can also expect healthy salary growth, year over year. While many HIT positions start out with a median annual salary of nearly $44,000, because of the explosive growth in the industry segment, the outlook on salary and compensation growth is trending upward, and year over year growth is expected to continue substantially in the next decade as the healthcare industry experiences a huge amount of development in light of recent world health events.

This career map from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) gives a substantive and interactive perspective on career growth in the HIT field.

So, how does one become an HIT professional?

As shown above, HIT professionals must start out in the educational path that gives them the groundwork for understanding the healthcare industry, broadly. In many higher-education and technical school settings, an HIT education will start with a baseline level of teaching in the precepts and important “101s” of healthcare. This includes terminology, protocol and a basic understanding of the hierarchies of various healthcare settings. HIT students can also expect to be trained in skills such as data entry, customer service skill building, technical skills like SQL, and eventually system-specific needs such as ICD-10 coding, CPT coding, different types of billing and accounting software, and much more to fill out a full and practical curriculum that puts real, applicable skills into the hands of students.

Future HIT professionals will also have available to them a number of certifications that will add value to their employment profiles and that can ultimately help expedite career advancement and wage growth as they enter into the workforce.

Now: A Future in HIT

Now, more than ever, a future in Health Information Technology is looking like an intrinsic part of the healthcare industry. As more and more hospitals and institutions further transition into digital infrastructure, HIT professionals will be a key aspect of any healthcare offering, as they’ve already been for decades. Whereas in the past an HIT professional might’ve just been a secretary or nurse managing paperwork and filing, the job space and skillset has grown significantly. As more healthcare goes online and into the cloud, there is a greater need for highly-trained employees in those skills and technical apparatuses to manage aspects that are specialized and do not conform to the typical notions we prescribe to healthcare workers.

It cannot be overstated that HIT is the future of healthcare and now, more than ever, HIT professionals are building, implementing, monitoring, and managing the information technology systems that keep us all in good health.

Are you interested in pursing a career in Health Information Technology? We can help you achieve your healthcare career dreams! Contact us to see how you can get started on your path today!

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