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Why You Should Get a Degree in Health Information Management from a Community College

hand touching display of electronic medical recordTo get certified as an RHIT ® or RHIA ®, you must have completed a degree from a program with CAHIIM Accreditation. The fastest, least expensive way to begin is with an associate degree from an accredited community college. A CAHIIM-accredited community college like Mount Wachusett Community College will prepare you to take the AHIMA certification exam. An associate degree is the only degree you need to achieve success in your career as a Registered Health Information Technician.

If you also choose to certify to the RHIA level, you will want to plan to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in Health Information Management following your A.S. in Health Information Management.

You Can Earn a Good Salary as a Health Information Technician in Massachusetts

Health Information Technicians earn an average of $45,920 in Massachusetts, according to the US Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine. Demand for employees in this career is projected to grow at a rate of 10-14% per year through 2026, which is faster than average.

Where Can You Get an Associate Degree in Health Information Management (HIM) in Massachusetts?

Bristol Community College – CAHIIM accredited
Mount Wachusett Community College – CAHIIM accredited
Springfield Community College – CAHIIM accredited

If You Want a Health Career, Get a Degree in Health Information Management

Think a lucrative career in health care starts and stops with nursing? Think again. Instead of spending years trying to qualify for competitive entry into a nursing program, consider majoring in HIM at a community college like Mount Wachusett. The program does not have special entry requirements – you can start anytime! Flexible start dates and a majority online program make this major very do-able.

How Do You Know Whether You Would Be a Good HIM Professional?

Do you have an analytical mind? Are good at managing details? Can you keep up with procedures that frequently change? Are you curious about disease processes and human anatomy and physiology? Home health care aides, CNAs, and even nurses who ready for a new challenge often choose HIM. If you love data and are interested in improving health care, a career as a Health Information Professional might be right for you! Try this free career assessment quiz:

What does a Health Information Technician Do?

As a Health Information Technician, you’ll work behind-the-scenes to make sure patients’ health information is complete, accurate, and protected. You will process and maintain patients’ electronic medical records according to the healthcare industry’s classification and coding systems. You will categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories. You will transcribe medical reports, make them accessible to medical personnel, and maintain security for all data. Your role will include aspects of medical billing, IT, and management.

About Mount Wachusett Community College’s A.S. in Health Information Management

Our 2-year program is online (except for two courses in biology that can be taken elsewhere and transferred, or taken in-person at MWCC) and is taught by health information technology professionals who have expertise in the field. You should be ready to learn both electronic medical records management and data analysis to get your degree in HIM, although Health Information Management is much more than medical billing or IT. As part of our coding courses, our students use the 3M™ Coding and Reimbursement System. After you graduate with your HIM associate’s degree, you will be prepared to take the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam.

Is it important to become a certified RHIT?

Getting your associate degree from a CAHIIM-accredited program is the first step, but you really need to plan on taking the RHIT exam from AHIMA. The RHIT exam costs about $300. Most employers prefer to hire health information technicians who have the RHIT certification or will earn it soon. With experience, the RHIT certification permits your potential for advancement to management positions, especially when combined with a bachelor’s degree.

From Associate Degree in HIM to Bachelor’s Degree in HIM

If you also choose to certify to the RHIA level, you will want to plan to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in Health Information Management following your A.S. in Health Information Management. Since you started at a community college, you will likely have saved thousands on the cost of tuition compared to students who spent all four years at a university. This will make a big difference when it’s time to repay your financial aid loans. In addition, your accredited associate degree will permit you to find a job in the field of health information technology while you work your way through your bachelor’s program.

Where Can You Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Information Management (HIM)?

Fisher College (Online)
Franklin University (Online)
Granite State College (Online)
Mercy College of Health Sciences (Online)
Saint Joseph’s College of Maine (Online)
SNHU (Online)
University of Central Florida (Online)
University of Cincinnati (Online)
University of Kansas Medical Center (Online)
University of Mississippi (Online)
University of South Carolina Upstate (Online)
University of Wisconsin (Online)

Glossary of Health Information Management Terms:

AHIMA: The American Health Information Management Association, a worldwide association for health information management (HIM) professionals that also provides certification and ongoing training for HIM professionals.

CAHIIM: The Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management (CCHIIM) is an AHIMA commission dedicated to assuring the competency of professionals practicing HIIM. CCHIIM serves the public by establishing, implementing, and enforcing standards and procedures for certification and recertification of HIM professionals.

CMS: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This U.S. federal agency, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, administers the following programs: Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Part D Prescription Drug benefit, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act.

EMR: An Electronic Medical Record is digital information used by providers for diagnosis and treatment. EMRs are more valuable than paper records because they enable providers to track data over time, identify patients for preventive visits and screenings, monitor patients, and improve healthcare quality.

Health Information Technology: Also called Health Information Management, this profession encompasses a wide range of electronic tools that enable the technician to access the latest clinical guidelines, improve the quality of patient care, improve patient safety, and coordinate patient care with multiple providers through the secure and private sharing of clinical information.

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was signed into U.S. law in 1996. HIPAA established the Privacy Rule and national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. HIPAA sets boundaries on the use and release of health records, requires health care providers and others to establish safeguards to protect the privacy of health information, and creates civil and criminal penalties if patients’ privacy rights are violated . Another significant provision of the law, known as Title II, requires the establishment of national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers.

RHIA: Registered Health Information Administrator. A certified expert in managing patient health information and medical records, administering computer information systems, collecting and analyzing patient data, and using classification systems and medical terminologies. An RHIA holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management (HIM) from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). An RHIA possesses comprehensive knowledge of medical, administrative, ethical and legal requirements and standards related to healthcare delivery and the privacy of protected patient information. They manage people and operational units, participates in administrative committees, and prepares budgets. An RHIA interacts with all levels of an organization – clinical, financial, administrative, and information systems –
that employ patient data in decision-making and everyday operations.

RHIT: Registered Health Information Technician. A certified professional who ensures the quality of medical records by verifying their completeness, accuracy, and proper entry into computer systems. An RHIT holds an associate degree in Health Information Management (HIM) from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). RHITs use computer applications to assemble and analyze patient data for the purpose of improving patient care or controlling costs. They often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research.