While their job may not directly involve clinically handling patients, health information specialists are crucial in the healthcare industry.

Also referred to as medical record specialists, their responsibility falls on the handling, organizing, and updating of patient medical records. There is a technical aspect to a health information specialist’s job too – especially with the ever-evolving medical technology.

Health information specialists are expected to remain technically savvy in their upkeep of medical records – both on paper and in databases.

What Does a Health Information Specialist Do?

Health information specialists gather patient notes from doctors and other medical professionals. Using these notes, they update patient medical records – ensuring information is organized and processed correctly. They may also classify this information and convert it into the coding system for medical billers to process and forward to insurance companies.

Other responsibilities health information specialists may have include:

  • Secure the confidentiality of patient files
  • Medical coding
  • Maintain and retrieve records for insurance reimbursement
  • Maintain and update records of a patient’s medical history
  • Accurate recording of patient diagnoses, procedures, and related services
  • Ability to use databases and necessary software to maintain patient files

Health information specialists also work with other healthcare professionals, like registered nurses and doctors. In addition, they are expected to follow legal, ethical, and administrative standards when handling patient files and privacy information.

How to Become a Health Information Specialist

To become a health information specialist, you will need at least an associate degree or a certificate in health information management from an accredited institution. Some people do choose to get bachelor’s degrees, but earning a bachelor’s is not typically required to become a health information specialist.

Whichever program you choose depends on your personal preference. The most important detail to keep in mind is ensuring that the school/institution you choose is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

Health Information Specialist Certificate Programs

Certificate programs give students the preparation they need to become health information specialists by focusing the curriculum only on courses that are necessary to the field. Again, be sure to check if your school is accredited by CAHIIM. These certificate programs can take a year or less to complete.

Health information specialist certificate programs will involve classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. These courses can also help you prepare for any future certification you may pursue in your career.

Health Information Specialist Associate Degree Programs

You can also pursue an associate degree in health information technology. Community colleges or trade schools offer these programs. An associate in health information can take two years to complete.

When enrolled in an associate degree program, you will take courses outside of the specialty of health information technology, such as unrelated mathematics, English, social studies, etc. Associate degree programs will also likely involve a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience.

What Classes Do You Take in a Health Information Program?

Whether or not you are enrolled in a certificate or associate degree program, you will likely take the following classes (outside of extracurriculars required by an associate degree program).

Classes you might take include, but are not limited to:

  • Necessary labs
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Computer operating systems and maintenance
  • Pharmacology
  • Coding courses
  • Healthcare statistics and analytics
  • Medical law and ethics

These are just a few of the courses you can expect to take in a health information program.

Salary and Job Outlook of Health Information Specialists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health information specialists earned an average of $51,090. The top 10 percent of these specialists made closer to $75,460. Health information specialists can also anticipate a growing field; the BLS predicts that by 2031, demand for the field will increase 7 percent.

Train to Become a Health Information Specialist!

The industry of health information is one that combines business and technology with healthcare and medical coding. It can be a great career, especially if you have an interest in the technical side of the healthcare industry. Find a health information program now.