California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians in California

May also be called: Clinical Data Specialists; Health Information Analysts; Health Information Management Specialists; Health Information Management Technicians; Health Information Specialists; Health Information Systems Technicians; Medical Record Technicians; Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT)

Specialties within this occupation include: Health Information Coders, Cancer Registrars

What Would I Do?

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians play a vital and unseen role in the quality of health care. They manage patient information and health care data ensuring privacy and security of protected health information and compliance with electronic data interchange standards in order to advance the delivery of quality health care. Managing health information has evolved from working with paper medical records to ensuring electronic information is accessible, accurate, and secure. Health Information Technicians work in health care settings where health information is captured, maintained, or used.

Patient health information includes documentation of medical histories, physical examinations, diagnostic testing, therapeutic interventions, emergency care and outpatient services, physician office visits, and any other health care provider services. Health Information Technicians capture, store, code, monitor, maintain, analyze, protect, and release health information for a wide range of purposes across many health care settings.

Health Information Technicians' duties vary with the size of the facility, educational background, and workplace setting. In large- to medium-sized facilities, Technicians may work in one aspect of health information or supervise health information clerks and transcriptionists. In small facilities, a credentialed Health Information Technician may manage the department.

Health Information Technicians may use office equipment, such as computers, scanners, encoders, and multi-line telephones. They may also use accounting, database management, electronic health record systems, document management, medical systems, and voice recognition software.

Health Information Coders are responsible for coding patients’ medical information for reimbursement and research purposes. They assign diagnosis and procedure codes using software that calculates the diagnosis-related group (DRG). The DRG determines the hospital's reimbursement for services for Medicare inpatients and some third-party payers. Coders work with other reimbursement systems, such as those required for hospital-based ambulatory care and outpatient surgeries, physician offices, long-term care, home health care, rehabilitation services, and mental health.

Cancer Registrars (also known as Tumor Registrars) maintain and support facility, regional, and national databases of cancer patients. They review cancer patient health records to identify, compile, and analyze patient data for use in cancer management. They may directly or indirectly have contact with physicians, patients, and their families to capture complete work-up, treatment, and follow-up information to determine survival, evaluate outcomes, and track quality of life. They prepare statistical, graphic, and written reports for medical staff, researchers, and other registry users, as required by California cancer reporting requirements.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Protect the security of medical records to ensure that confidentiality is maintained.Problem Sensitivity
Review records for completeness, accuracy and compliance with regulations.Reading Comprehension
Retrieve patient medical records for physicians, technicians, or other medical personnel.Clerical
Release information to persons and agencies according to regulations.Active Listening
Plan, develop, maintain and operate a variety of health record indexes and storage and retrieval systems to collect, classify, store and analyze information.Information Ordering
Enter data, such as demographic characteristics, history and extent of disease, diagnostic procedures and treatment into computer.Near Vision
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Health Information Technicians work in pleasant and comfortable offices. They usually work a 40-hour week, but some overtime may be required. In hospitals, where health information departments are open around the clock, Technicians may work day, evening, and night shifts. This is one of a few allied health occupations in which there is no direct, hands-on patient care. Technicians who work at computer monitors for prolonged periods should guard against eyestrain, muscle pain, and repetitive stress injuries.

Although the Health Information Technician occupation is generally not unionized, those working for large hospitals may be represented by a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Health Information Technician may appeal to those who enjoy following set procedures and routines as well as accuracy and attention to detail. Service-oriented individuals who value working in a friendly non-competitive environment should enjoy this type of job.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries for Health Information Technicians vary by educational background and size of employer. Certified coding specialists earn more.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Health Information Technicians in California is $44,465 annually, or $21.38 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$33,387$44,465$59,814
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Most employers offer benefit packages that include health insurance, vacation, sick leave, holidays, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Health Information Technicians should enjoy very good job prospects in the coming years. Those with a health information clinical coding background will be especially in demand. More Technicians will be needed to handle increasing data requirements due to changing government regulations, electronic data interchange for reimbursement by providers, and the growth of managed care organizations. Federal legislation mandating the use of electronic health records will create additional opportunities as Technicians are needed to manage electronically stored data. Many new jobs are expected, especially in physicians’ offices and large group practices where there is an increased demand for detailed records. The aging of the population should also help fuel job growth in other health care delivery settings.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Health Information Technicians is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Health Information Technicians are expected to increase by 19.6 percent, or 3,700 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Health Information Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
18,90022,6003,70019.64,200
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 370 new job openings per year is expected for Health Information Technicians, plus an additional 420 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 790 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Health Information Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
370420790
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Health Information Technicians in hospital settings need an associate degree in health information technology from a community college or private college accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). In addition to general education, coursework includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, legal aspects of health information, health data requirements and standards, clinical classification systems, health care reimbursement methods, data analysis, statistical methods, information and communications systems security, database management, and quality improvement methods.

Some employers prefer candidates with health care experience. Technicians need good communication skills, computer proficiency, and must have the ability to pay close attention to detail and understand the importance of data integrity for quality documentation within the scope of their work.

Medical coders working in physician's offices usually have a high school diploma.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this kind of work should take classes in biology, chemistry, mathematics, health, and computer information systems to improve their chances of admission into a training program.

Work Study Programs

There are Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) available in some areas for health-related occupations, such as medical office services, health care information services, and medical office occupations. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Credentialed Health Information Technicians need continuing education units to maintain credentials.

Certification

Most employers prefer Technicians who have a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Candidates must graduate from an associate degree program accredited by CAHIIM and pass AHIMA's accreditation/registration exam.

Coding certification programs, available from several organizations, will further enhance career opportunities. The AHIMA offers separate certification programs for entry-level coders, experienced coders, and those specializing in physician coding. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers three distinct certification programs in addition to granting certificates within specialties. Certified Tumor Registrar credentials are offered by the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA). For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Health Information, Medical Records, Medical Insurance, and Coding.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Health Information Technicians are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 33.6%
Offices of Physicians 18.6%
Nursing Care Facilities 8.3%
Outpatient Care Centers 7.3%
Office Administrative Services 4.9%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Networking through professional associations and using professional health industry search firms are the most common ways to find job leads. Direct application to employers is also an effective job search method as are newspaper classified ads and Internet job listings. Recent graduates should apply with their school placement office. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Health Information Technicians.

  • Home Health Services
  • Hospitals
  • Insurance
  • Managed Care
  • Nursing Homes
  • Physicians & Surgeons
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Health Information Technicians typically advance either by specializing or going into management. Senior Technicians generally specialize in coding, cancer registry, or in privacy and security. Technicians can advance to Registered Health Information Administrators (RHIA) by completing an accredited bachelor degree in health information management.

In large health information departments, they may promote to section supervisor, where they oversee the work of the coding, release of information, or record processing sections.

Senior Technicians with RHIT credentials may become director, assistant directors, or supervisors and managers of a health information department in a small facility. However, in larger institutions, the director usually is an administrator with a bachelor or master's degree in health information management.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Health Information Technicians with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Computer Support SpecialistsGuide
First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support WorkersGuide
Insurance Claims and Policy Processing ClerksProfile
Medical and Health Services ManagersGuide
Medical SecretariesGuide
Medical TranscriptionistsGuide
Office Clerks, GeneralGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2071
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Medical Records and Health Information Technicians29-2071.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CES
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Health Information/Medical Records Technology/Technician 510707
   Medical Insurance Coding Specialist/Coder 510713
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Health Information Technology122300
   Health Information Coding122310