Introduction to Healthcare Information Technology and Systems

November 3, 2017

Introduction to Healthcare Information Technology and Systems

As technology continues to develop and regulations shift toward digital record-keeping, technology is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare field. With this growth comes the need for employees who can manage healthcare technology and health information systems. But what does that mean?

There are two important parts of healthcare technology: the hardware and software that help hospitals and medical facilities run, and the information technology that helps facilities collect, maintain, and protect digital records. So the two common fields of study are: 1. Technology systems, and 2. Health information technology.

Read on to learn the differences between to two, and to understand the potential job growth and demand, work environments, and common positions.

What’s the difference between Healthcare Information Technology and Healthcare Technology and Systems?

These two fields have many things in common. They both deal with technology and computers, so it’s a plus to be comfortable with basic computer functions. Employees in both fields are likely to work with computer software that contains healthcare information, and both need to know how to keep patient information private and secure.

Healthcare Technology and Systems focuses on the hardware and software necessary to keep a healthcare facility running.  This includes general IT tasks like providing desktop and software support, staffing the IT help desk, and troubleshooting. Healthcare Technology and Systems also focuses on managing the flow of information and the design of the information system. People in this field may work with Electronic Healthcare Records, or EHRs, as well.

Health Information Technology focuses more on the information management systems that house EHRs. They may run reports for EHR systems, retrieve medical information in line with healthcare laws and regulations, and evaluate records for accuracy and quality. Overall, they focus on maintaining a facility’s information systems so that healthcare records are created, stored, and protected appropriately.

You can also drill further down into medical records with a Medical Billing and Coding degree. This is under the umbrella of Health Information Technology and focuses specifically on data-keeping and records management. In this field, you will work directly with medical records inside of information systems.

Entry-Level Jobs and Work Environments for Healthcare Information Systems and Technology 

Both Healthcare Technology and Systems and Health Information Technology prepare students for  a variety of entry-level jobs. These include:

Health Information Technology

  • Clinical Documentation Specialist – These specialists are often responsible for managing electronic information. They help maintain healthcare records and make sure they are accurate. They also make sure that providers can easily access patient information.
  • Document Imaging Technician – A document imaging technician converts paper documents to electronic form. They are typically responsible for checking records for quality, scanning them and making sure they convert correctly. They usually also catalogue and organize the new electronic files
  • Health Information Clerk – These clerks help maintain EHRs. They are often responsible for updating the records and keeping them organized. Health information clerks also make sure that doctors can easily access EHRs.
  • Medical Records Analyst – These analysts are responsible for interpreting data from electronic healthcare records. By pulling conclusions from the data, medical records analysts often help organizations evaluate and improve. They also make sure that electronic records are being filled out according to guidelines.
  • Medical Records Coordinator – This coordinator helps to maintain patient records and healthcare data. They make sure that electronic healthcare records are filled out correctly, and they help physicians access patient information. They may also use programs to assign clinical codes to records prior to storing them.
  • Patient Access Representative – This type of representative is usually responsible for enrolling new patients and making sure they have all the information they need. They also work with physicians to make sure providers have the patient information necessary for quality care.

Health Technology and Systems

  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) Specialist – An electronic health records specialist verifies the quality and accuracy of electronic health records. They usually assist in keeping records compliant, coding for reimbursement claims, discussing patient information with physicians and more.
  • Help Desk Analyst – These analysts usually work as IT support for companies. They are responsible for identifying and fixing IT problems. They usually communicate with employees via telephone and email to understand technology issues.
  • Medical Software Technician – Medical software technicians typically install and sustain software programs for a medical company. Medical software technicians may troubleshoot IT problems and upgrade as needed. Being a medical software technician may lead to software development in the future.
  • Application Support Specialist – These specialists make sure employees can effectively use company programs and applications. They usually work in the IT department and provide support to employees.
  • Medical Records Clerk – A medical records clerk typically handles electronic medical records in a healthcare office. They perform data entry for patient charts and other physical forms. They may also be responsible for retrieving files and checking them for accuracy.
  • Medical Office Associate – A medical office associate supports the front desk of a medical office. Tasks could include checking in patients, entering in and updating patient information, processing referrals and more. There may also be reporting and troubleshooting involved.

These positions and more can be found in many environments within the healthcare technology field. You may work in places like:

Health Information Technology

  • Doctor’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Medical clinics
  • Surgical centers
  • Insurance companies

Health Technology & Systems

  • Doctor’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Medical hardware or software companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Legal offices
  • Health IT providers

As you can see, these fields offer a variety of opportunities in different settings.

Now that you’ve had an introduction to Healthcare Information Systems and Technology, it’s time to learn about the job outlook, choosing the right path for you, and the education and skills you need to get there.

The Healthcare Information Systems and Technology Field Is Growing 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth for the Health Information Technology field. The average growth for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, the category under which Health Information Technology falls, is 13% from 2016 to 2026—much faster than the rate of all occupations.

The leading reason for this increase is aging populations who require more care. As older generations have increasing healthcare needs, they create more need for electronic medical records and the professionals who maintain them.

On the other side is Healthcare Technology and Systems, which combines two growing fields—IT and healthcare. Computer Support Specialist positions are projected to grow 10% from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average, and healthcare occupations are projected to grow by 18% during the same time period.

The reasons for growth in healthcare are similar to those listed above; aging populations more need for healthcare positions generally. Computer Support Specialists are projected to grow as companies update their technology and have need for people who can solve more complex technological issues. Healthcare is one of the industries where technology is rapidly evolving.

Meanwhile, medical billers and coders fall under the umbrella of Medical Secretaries, which is projected to grow 22% from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So it’s clear there is career opportunity within the healthcare technology field.

Getting into Healthcare Information Technology and Systems

Before you decide to begin your education and job search, you’ll need to choose which side is right for you: Healthcare Information Technology or Health Technology and Systems. You read in Part I [link] the difference between the two, but here are some other things to consider:

  • What environment do you want to work in?
  • What kind of work do you want to do?
  • What are you interested in learning?

What environment do you want to work in?
If you’d like to work in a typical healthcare office or facility like a doctor’s office, hospital, or nursing home, you could pursue either of these fields and have access to those opportunities.

However, if you’re interested in working for an insurance company, Healthcare IT provider, or in another office setting, Healthcare Technology & Systems might be a better fit for you.

What kind of work do you want to do?
When you work in Health Information Systems, you spend a lot of time working with electronic healthcare records and the platforms that support them. You’ll analyze, maintain, and retrieve patient information along with making sure patient records stay secure. You’ll need to know HIPAA regulations to understand when and how medical records should be released. You may find leadership opportunities and supervisory roles available to you.

When you work in Health Technology and Systems, you’ll be focused on helping computer users with technology needs. You will likely work with electronic healthcare records to make sure that the system is working correctly—but you might not be directly entering and managing patient information. You could also provide desktop support and identify and resolve any technology issues.

What are you interested in learning?
When you study Health Technology and Systems, you’ll learn how to troubleshoot healthcare software and use electronic health record systems. You’ll also learn about windows operating systems and Windows Office programs. You’ll study how to support desktop users and understand their hardware. You may also learn about different computer networks, databases, data storage, and more.

When you learn about Health Information Technology, you’ll learn how to enter  electronic medical records into a healthcare information system. You’ll also learn how to collect health records, and understand the regulations surrounding privacy and security of patient records. You’ll study the proper way to release medical information and learn how regulation affects medical information.

Skills 

The Health Information Technology field requires specific skills. According to the BLS, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians should have:

  • Analytical skills. They should be able to analyze and understand a patient’s health record and diagnosis, and be able to figure out how to translate that into medical codes.
  • Attention to detail. These technicians should be able to maintain accuracy while inputting and coding patient information.
  • Health Information Technicians work with very sensitive information and should be able to keep the utmost confidentiality.
  • Interpersonal skills. They often talk about patient information with other healthcare professionals, and should be able to communicate effectively.
  • Technical skills. They should be able to use coding software, electronic records systems, and classification software, among others.

Computer Support specialists, the title under which Healthcare Technology and Systems falls, requires similar skills. Some skills they require include:

  • Customer-service skills. They often work with people who are frustrated by technological problems, so it’s important that computer support specialists are good at providing positive customer service and support.
  • Ability to listen. Before they can fix a problem, they have to understand the issue. That’s why listening skills are important to this field.
  • Creative Problem The answers to technological issues are often complex. Customer support specialists should be able to apply creative problem-solving to their work.
  • Good communication. People working in this field should be able to explain technological issues in simple terms so non-professionals can understand.
  • Ability to write well. They may have to write instructions or reply to emails, which means they need to be able to formulate their thoughts clearly and well.

Do these skillsets sound like you? If so, then you might want to begin pursuing an education in Healthcare Information Technology and Systems. Here are some things to know about the educational requirements.

Education

If you want to become a Medical Records or Health Information Technician, you’ll likely need a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree in Health Information Technology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These programs typically include classes on:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Healthcare coding systems
  • Health reimbursement
  • Health Data requirements
  • Healthcare computer systems

Education requirements vary for computer support specialists working in Health Technology and Systems, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some employers require a postsecondary degree like an associate or bachelor’s degree, while others are satisfied with non-degree earning computer-related classes. For highly technical positions, the employer may require a bachelor’s degree or more in a specific area of study, like information science or computer science.

Education isn’t the only thing you need to be a qualified candidate, though. You’ll also need to know any certification requirements for the field you want to join.

Certification

People working in Healthcare Technology and Systems may need certification depending on the employer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certification programs in this field are typically offered by third-party vendors or by neutral providers. Those looking to become a computer support specialist should check with potential employers to see what they require.

Health Information Technology certifications include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam, offered through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

To sit for the RHIT exam, you’ll need to graduate from an associate degree program accredited by the Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). You can also graduate from a program accredited by a foreign association that has an established agreement with AHIMA.

It’s possible for eligible students in their final year of study to take the RHIT exam early. Students who take this route and pass the certification exam will receive their credentials upon proof of graduation.

Now that you’ve read Parts I and II of this series, you should have a solid understanding of what Healthcare Information Technology & Systems is, and what people in this field typically do. This field is growing quickly, and employers are looking for new candidates who meet qualifications. If this field sounds right for you, then you might want to look into pursuing education and a career in Healthcare Information Technology & Systems.

Helpful Links

Health Information Technology

Healthcare Technology and Systems

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About the Author

is an award-winning writer and journalist with years of experience within the healthcare and education space. She has contributed to dozens of periodicals, publications and blogs, and she specializes in providing well-researched and thought-provoking content.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.

The UMA Blog covers information and advice for employers and workers at the intersection of healthcare, education and employment. Our contributors are intimately familiar with a wide range of subjects covering professional development, career advancement, workplace politics, healthcare industry specific topics, personal finance, education and so much more. Learn what you need to get ahead and stay ahead.

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