Health Information Specialist

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How to become a Health Information Specialist

Every patient has a medical record containing a wide range of information about symptoms, examinations, test results and reports, diagnoses, treatment plans, and treatment outcomes. Health Information Specialists maintain those medical records by organizing, computerizing, and maintaining them to make sure they are accurate and complete.

What does a Health Information Specialist do?

Health information specialists are allied health professionals who use their communication skills and attention to detail abilities to oversee the management of health care data. Health information specialists' responsibilities include:

  • Assembling patients' health information
  • Making sure that medical charts and forms are complete
  • Making sure that medical charts and forms are properly identified and authenticated
  • Inputting information into the computer
  • Communicating with physicians and other health care professionals about diagnoses or other necessary patient information
  • Using computer programs to tabulate and analyze data

What to Expect on the Health Information Specialist Job

Health information specialists work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, outpatient care centers, and physicians' offices. Most health information specialists work a 40-hour week with the possibility of overtime pay, although those health information specialists who work in a hospital, which is open all day, every day, might work day, evening and night shifts. You may also find employment with healthcare insurance companies.

Health Information Specialist Education and Training

Most health information specialists have an associate degree in health information technology, medical coding, or medical coding and billing from a community college, career education college, or voc/tech college.

If you graduate from a 2-year program health information technology or medical coding program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), you can then take an exam to become a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). Many employers prefer to hire people with this designation, so you will likely increase both your job opportunities and your pay when you earn the RHIT certification.

Health Information Specialist Job Outlook

The employment outlook for health information specialists is excellent due to the exploding demand for medical services by an aging U.S. population. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 30,000 new job openings by for 2016. Your employment and promotion opportunities will be best if you get a degree and acquire medical coding experience.

Health Information Specialist Pay

Based on 2006 data, the median annual salary for health information technologists ranges from $20,000 to more than $45,260, with a median salary of $28,030.

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Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009 Edition; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor