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1. What is an HIM Professional?

If you have an interest in healthcare and information technology, health information management (HIM) may be the right career choice for you. As one of the fastest growing occupations in one of the fastest growing industries, an HIM career places you right where the expanding arena of healthcare meets the cutting edge of technology.  HIM professionals are experts in the field of patient health information and medical records. HIM professional duties can include operating computer information systems, coding diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement, maintaining quality control of health records, and more. These professionals are also the caretakers and guardians of personal health information—ensuring that confidential patient information is secure and released only according to strict state and federal laws. 

2. What is HIT?

Health information technicians (HIT), also called medical records technicians, are responsible for gathering, organizing and updating patients’ medical records.  This is a very important job, as physicians and other healthcare workers rely on patient information.

The Health Information Technology Program offers preparation for a technical area of service in hospitals, clinics, and related health facilities, and agencies. Graduates are prepared to serve as entry level health information technicians. The health information technician performs technical duties vital to the operation of a health information record department in any health care facility.

3. What do the credentials RHIT stand for?

Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)

RHITs are health information technicians who ensure the quality of medical records by verifying their completeness, accuracy, and proper entry into computer systems. They may also use computer applications to assemble and analyze patient data for the purpose of improving patient care or controlling costs. RHITs often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research. RHITs may serve as cancer registrars, compiling and maintaining data on cancer patients. With experience, the RHIT credential holds solid potential for advancement to management positions, especially if it is combined with a bachelor's degree.

Although most RHITs work in hospitals, you will also find them in a variety of other healthcare settings including office-based physician practices, nursing homes, home health agencies, mental health facilities, and public health agencies. In fact employment opportunities exist for RHITs in any organization that uses patient data or health information such as pharmaceutical companies, law and insurance firms, and health product vendors

4. What do the credentials CCA stand for?

Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

CCA’s are entry level coding associates who demonstrate professional competency and a high level of commitment to health information management. CCA’s work with medical records to ensure accuracy, completeness, and proper entry into computer systems. CCA’s work in a variety of healthcare facilities throughout the country, including hospitals, physician offices, nursing homes, home health agencies, mental health facilities, and public health agencies. Employment opportunities exist in all areas of healthcare where patient health records are used.

5. Are there any prerequisites to entering this program?

Students without prior college are encouraged to take some general education requirements prior to enrolling in HIM specific courses. Specifically, students are encouraged to take college level English and a computer course either before or concurrently with HIM courses. Prior to enrolling in any HIM courses, students should have an advising interview with the program director (this can be done online or by telephone) so that a degree plan can be developed collaboratively.

Applicants should be aware that professional practices are part of HIM courses, and transportation to various health agencies for these experiences is the responsibility of the student. The University is self-insured and enrolled students are covered by professional liability insurance.

6. What kind of jobs are available in this field?

Employment opportunities abound for health information professionals. While many practitioners currently work in hospital settings, expanding opportunities for employment include those in ambulatory, long term, behavioral health facilities, industrial clinics, state and federal agencies, private industry, and educational facilities.

The Health Information Management program at the University of Alaska Southeast will prepare graduates for employment as health information specialists. The field has been identified as one of the top ten growth careers for the next decade by the Department of Labor. Graduates have a wide variety of possibilities in both type and location of employment, with career opportunities throughout the nation and internationally.

7. How much money can I make?

In Alaska, health information technicians earn a starting average hourly wage of $15.28, and/or a starting annually salary of $31,780. More information can be found on the national association’s website at www.ahima.org

8. What is the difference between the coding certificate and the degree?

The coding certificate is embedded in the degree. It was offered as a separate certificate beginning in 1997 because we had many requests for people employed in health care who wanted to specialize in this area. It was designed for working adults so it is meant to be part time. Most of the graduates from this certificate are employed as coders or coder/billers. In addition, several certificate graduates have also completed or are in the process of completing the degree.

9. I just want to be a coder, what should I do?

There isn't a simple answer to this – you can start by getting your coding certificate. But that said; many AHIMA members who are professional coders are also RHITs, and RHIAs, and others hold master’s degrees.  One common misunderstanding is that you will be ready to take the CCS exam once you complete your academic training and that is incorrect.  A CCA exam exam is an entry level exam available to students if they choose to take the exam.  Additional exams such as the CCS or CCS-P are mastery credentials and reflect two to three years of full time coding experience beyond the academic preparations that you will receive in school.

10. Is the HIM program online?

Yes. The general education requirements classes can also be taken online.

11. Can all of the courses required for the HIM majors be taken by distance education?

All courses unique to the HIM or Health Care Coding Certificate (those beginning with an HIM prefix) are offered by distance education,.  As long as you have access to the internet, you can take HIM classes by distance education.  With any transfer credits, we recommend checking with UAS before taking the class to be sure that the course will be accepted.

12. Am I required to start at the beginning of a specific semester when enrolling in a health information management degree?

You may start courses at the beginning of any semester, however, the progression of the HIM courses will depend on the availability and sequencing of the courses you take.  You should check in advance for any course prerequisites.

13. How long will it take to complete a degree (HIM or coding certificate) by distance education?

The amount of time it will take to complete your degree will depend on the number of courses you feel you can handle per semester along with other responsibilities you may have (work, job, family, etc.).  It will also vary depending on the number of credits you may have already taken and transferred.

14. I am changing careers and want to get a degree in HIM, but I need to work full time and be a part-time student, will this be a problem?

UAS HIM distance education programs can accommodate part-time students.  Distance courses through UAS are growing in popularity and accommodate the working student’s busy schedule.

15. What is the difference between the coding certificate offered by UAS and the ones offered by UAA and UAF?

The coding certificate offered by the UAS Health Information Management program is primarily focused on inpatient coding with training in outpatient coding and billing. The focus of the UAA and UAF certificates are on outpatient coding and billing.

In addition, the AHIMA offers a coding certificate that is web-based. These programs are accredited and in depth. Be careful of  programs that promise preparation for an exam in a matter of months. Also make sure the credential is nationally (or internationally recognized).

16. What Programs are offered through UAS?

Associate of Applied Science in HIM
The Health Information Management (HIM) program provides a course study, using primarily distance delivery methodology, that prepares entry-level health information professionals.  This program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.  Graduates are eligible to write a national examination; successful completion of the examination leads to the professional credential of Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). 

Health Care Coding Certificate
An area of HIM specifically focused on coding/classifications systems at both the inpatient and outpatient level.  The certificate will allow students to obtain entry-level skills in healthcare coding and the opportunity to continue to earn an associated of applied science degree in Health Information Management.  National credentialing exams are available at both the entry and advanced level.

Healthcare Privacy and Security Certificate
This certificate was created in response to the increased complexity of data disclosure, particularly the full implementation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It is offered via distance delivery and requires a minimum of 30 credits, 21 of which are specified HIM courses. Students are introduced to legal and ethical implications of data disclosure, and are given an overview of state and federal laws, client rights and responsibilities, contracts, corporate liability, and professional liability.

Healthcare Information Technology Occupational Endorsement
The Healthcare Information Technology Occupational Endorsement is designed to prepare students for employment as entry level Healthcare Information Specialists or to provide supplemental training for persons previously or currently employed in related health record occupations. This program will introduce the student to the fundamentals of healthcare informatics by focusing on the resources, devices and methods used to acquire, store, retrieve and utilize electronic healthcare information. Students will explore interoperability and meaningful use in the field of EHRs.

17. I have taken classes through a technical/career school. Will those classes transfer to the UAS HIM program?

Generally, the University only accepts classes from regionally accredited schools and you must have earned a C or better. Most career schools are nationally, but not regionally accredited. Also, the AHIMA national exam in health information is only open to graduates from accredited programs. It is best to check with AHIMA before enrolling in a program that may not give you access to the national credentialing exam.

18. I am returning to school with a degree in another subject. What credits will transfer toward my new degree requirements?

Generally speaking, if you have satisfied your general education requirements with another degree you can begin taking the professional component HIM courses immediately.  Life science courses that are considered part of the HIM educational foundation such as: Anatomy & Physiology, Pathology, and Medical Terminology will be examined critically to see if your prior coursework is of the same caliber as the program’s requirements.  You should meet with the Program Director during your first term to create a graduation plan that will identify those courses that are met and the courses that are needed to graduate.

19. I am in high school now, what classes should I take to help me enter into a career in health information management or health informatics?

Life sciences are good preparatory classes: anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, and medical terminology are examples. Unlike some other health careers, the students pursuing health information management career will not be expected to take chemistry or physics. Being comfortable with computer technology is a strong advantage for the HIM student. Internet usage and the ability to use word processing, spreadsheet, and database applications are skills that are considered desirable for careers in health information technology.

20. What options are there for financial aid?

Money to pay for your education can come from a variety of sources making up a “package” of financial aid. Some financial aid needs to be repaid and some aid is a gift that does not require repayment. Financial aid comes from federal sources, state sources and private sources. Financial aid assistance is competitive, and requires careful review and timely submission of all qualifying documentation in order to receive a financial aid package that will support your desire to become a college student.
At UAS, please contact 1-800, 478-6653 and ask for Financial Aid

HIM specific scholarships: Each state has an association of health information professionals. These state associations frequently fund annual scholarships for HIM students enrolled in a program in their state. Check with the HIM state association regarding scholarship availability. 

The FORE Foundation of AHIMA awards numerous scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in accredited HIM degree programs. For full instructions for applying visit: http://www.ahima.org/fore/student/programs.asp

 
 

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