Female medical professional working at a desk

From EMT to Health Information Technician: An EMT Career Guide

How to Become a Health Information Technician: A look at the Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Female medical professional working at a desk

EMTs and paramedics work directly with a variety of patients daily. The job is exciting because no one can predict the next situation and who will need treatment.

But after a while, some EMTs find that while they may love the emergency medicine experience, they would like a job with less direct patient interaction. EMTs who choose to move on have a wide variety of options where their experience will be a great benefit. One popular option is becoming a Health Information Technician.

(See our list of alternative jobs for EMTs and paramedics)

Health information technicians play a vital role in the healthcare system—without them, hospitals and clinics would grind to a halt. A health information tech organizes and manages the health information of patients using a mix of paper and electronic filing systems. Although it’s primarily a clerical job, it’s still best suited for professionals with medical backgrounds, such as EMTs or paramedics.

Health Information Technician Requirements

How to Become a Health Information Technician

Most states require Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) applicants to complete an associate degree from an accredited program, where candidates study subjects such as disease and diagnostic coding, medical insurance and reimbursement, and basic medical terminology.

Like becoming an EMT or a paramedic, you’ll also need to pass an RHIT certification exam after completing your coursework and recertify every two years.

Health Information Technician Might Be a Good Fit For You If:

  • You have a head for numbers and spreadsheets
  • You are very organized and focused
  • You prefer to work indoors
  • You are good with computers
  • You have the integrity required to work with sensitive personal and financial information
  • You can break down raw data into easily understandable terms
  • You prefer a standard workday to the longer shifts of emergency medicine

Health Information Technician Duties & Responsibilities

What Exactly Does a Health Information Technician Do?

The primary job of a health information technician is to organize and manage patients’ health information to maintain its quality, accuracy, availability, and security. They work with various computer systems to enter, access, and analyze data, then communicate directly with medical teams to provide immediate information on patient histories and prior treatment.

Some of the common responsibilities for health information technicians include:

  • Entering new data into patients’ records
  • Reviewing and analyzing patient data for accuracy, timeliness, and completeness
  • Tracking patient outcomes for quality assessment
  • Coding various procedures and diagnoses for insurance purposes and billing
  • Meeting with medical teams to clarify patient data, history, and previous treatments
  • Maintaining confidentiality and security of patient records

Health professional looking at medical records

Health Information Technician Job Description

What is a Typical Day for a Health Information Technician?

A typical day for a health information technician depends mainly on where they work. Most work in hospitals and have a standard 8-to-5 shift—although some hospitals maintain a 24-hour medical records department, meaning they may require night and weekend shifts. Some RHITs can work remotely from a home office.

Much of an RHIT’s day is spent in front of a computer monitor—entering and analyzing data. From the moment you start to the minute you finish for the day, you can expect a steady flow of new data for entry and requests for analysis of old data. Unlike EMTs and paramedics, the workflow for an RHIT tends to be steady from day to day, rather than moments of high action followed by periods of waiting.

Occasionally, an RHIT may contribute to special projects—a deep dive analysis of patient care across several years, for example. You may put together a report to help decide plans for the hospital, your hospital’s staff, and your hospital’s current and future patients.

Health Information Technician Hours

Most RHITs enjoy a standard office 8-to-5 weekday shift. However, this can vary according to the employer, and some hospitals may include weekend and overnight shifts.

Health Information Technician Uniform

Because Health Information Technicians don’t work directly with patients, scrubs aren’t typically required (although some hospitals or clinics may still require them). Instead, comfortable office attire is the standard for most RHITs.

Health Information Technician Education

What Training Is Required to Become a Health Information Technician?

Health information technician training begins with earning a high school diploma (or GED), followed by an accredited RHIT program or associate degree.

Health Information Technician Programs

Standard four-year colleges, vocational schools, and community colleges offer health information technician programs. The RHIT courses may vary slightly from school to school, but the overall curriculum will be similar.

During your RHIT courses, you’ll study:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Health Information Statistics
  • Health Information Computer Applications
  • Disease and Diagnosis Coding
  • Medical Insurance and Reimbursement
  • Basic Medical Terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Information Management Techniques
  • Common Procedural Technology (CPT) Coding

The curriculum will also include RHIT exam preparation to help give students their best shot at passing post-graduation certification exams.

Indian medical students practicing in a classroom

How Long Does It Take to Be a Health Information Technician?

Most accredited RHIT programs can be completed within two years. A four-year RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) option is also available for those seeking managerial positions.

Health Information Technician Certification

The RHIT certification exam typically happens in a testing facility similar to the ones used for EMT and paramedic certification exams. The exam questions focus almost entirely on your ability to analyze and manage data. You’ll be asked to demonstrate your ability to:

  • Verify the completion and accuracy of patient data in a health information management system
  • Analyze and assemble patient data
  • Properly code diagnoses and procedures
  • Properly submit compiled information to an insurance provider

Conveniently, there’s no waiting period between the completion of your exam and receiving your score. You’ll get your results on the spot along with a “pass” or “fail” designation.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Health Information Technician?

Tuition costs for an accredited health information technology program will vary from school to school. Most RHIT programs will average around $2,000 per semester ($8,000 total for the full two years), though some programs can reach as high as $12,000 to $15,000 for a two-year program.

Of course, most schools offer some form of financial aid or tuition assistance, so be sure to speak to a financial aid representative before enrolling.

The RHIT certification exam costs $299 to register.

Health Information Technician Required Skills

Besides the training and certification requirements, health information technicians should exhibit the following skills to achieve success:

  • Communication – RHITs work with raw data—numbers and statistics—but this can overwhelm doctors and patients. A good RHIT can break down the data into easily digestible information.
  • Analytical Thinking – The goal of an RHIT is to use data to streamline and improve patient care in a way that makes treatment as affordable (and effective) as possible for both patient and hospital. This takes a person who can read data and make suggestions based on that information.
  • Organization – The sheer number of records in a hospital is staggering, and mistakes that occur with these files can have significant consequences. A good RHIT is highly organized and meticulous enough to avoid those mistakes.
  • Ethical – As an RHIT, the personal and financial information of every patient in the hospital is at your fingertips. Therefore, this job requires individuals to possess the highest ethical standards and discretion.
  • Cooperative – As an RHIT, you work with various people across multiple organizations, including insurance companies. Your ability to work well with people in different roles can directly impact your employer, as well as the care and financial well-being of your patients.
  • Technical Skills – Health information techs must be very comfortable around computers. You’ll use database programs to track, enter, and analyze data daily. These may not always be the most user-friendly computer applications, so you’ll need to be patient and tech-savvy to succeed.

EMS team loading a woman into an ambulance

From EMT to Health Information Technician

How Will EMT Experience Help Me Become a Health Information Technician?

Being a paramedic or EMT can be beneficial in becoming a health information technician. The knowledge EMTs gain in the field and the classroom will be used in the role of the RHIT.

  • Proof of Performance – Your time as an EMT or paramedic proves you are passionate and capable of caring for others in the medical field.
  • Patient Care – Your hands-on experience with patients not only sets you apart from others in the RHIT field but also gives you unique insights into the diagnoses, procedures, and treatments you’ll be analyzing.
  • Communication – EMTs and paramedics are responsible for communicating a patient’s status quickly and accurately to doctors and dispatchers. This skill translates directly to your new role as an RHIT, as you’ll communicate patient information to doctors with the same speed, accuracy, and sometimes urgency.
  • Organizational Skills – EMTs and paramedics handle patient information during a shift, and the organizational tips and tricks learned in the field can significantly help an RHIT’s daily tasks.
  • Medical Terminology – EMTs and paramedics become familiar with medical terminology while working directly with patients in the field, familiarizing them with the terms an RHIT is expected to know and understand.

Health Information Technician Salary

How Much Does a Health Information Technician Make?

According to the BLS, the average annual salary* for a health information technician is roughly $61,000 per year or $30 per hour, with salaries in the 90th percentile averaging $98,000 or higher.

The job outlook for RHITs is also growing quickly. The field is expected to expand by 9% in the next ten years.

Highest Paid Industries for Health Information Technicians

Here is a list of the highest-paying occupational settings:

Industry Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Scientific research and development services $ 53.26 $ 110,790
Computer systems design and related services $ 53.26 $ 110,780
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $ 40.62 $ 84,490
Business support services $ 37.34

 

$ 77,670

 

Grantmaking and giving services $ 37.21 $ 77,400

Highest Paying States for Health Information Technicians

Health information technicians receive the highest average salaries (& hourly wages) in the following states:

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
New York $ 44.33 $ 92,200
Maryland $ 42.19 $ 87,750
California $ 41.75 $ 86,830
District of Columbia $ 39.78 $ 82,740
Massachusetts $ 35.91 $ 74,680

Highest Paying Cities for Health Information Technicians

Health information technicians receive the highest average salaries (& hourly wages) in the following cities:

Metropolitan area Average hourly wage Average annual wage
San Jose, CA $ 54.04 $ 112,400
Santa Maria, CA $ 51.87 $ 107,900
San Francisco, CA $ 47.12 $ 98,000
Sacramento, CA $ 45.56 $ 94,750
Vallejo, CA $ 44.85 $ 93,290
Baltimore, MD $ 42.63 $ 88,660
Bakersfield, CA $ 42.28 $ 87,940
St. Cloud, MN $ 41.25 $ 85,790
Stockton, CA $ 40.45 $ 84,130
Los Angeles, CA $ 39.74 $ 82,660

Smiling medical team in a stairwell

Beginning Your Career as a Health Information Technician

Becoming a Health Information Technician is a logical and positive next step for some EMTs and paramedics.

If you’re not already an EMT and would like to gain real-world experience before moving on to becoming a health information tech, a great way to start is by training for EMT certification.

Emergency medical services are an excellent way to test the waters before fully committing to any career in healthcare. Jobs for RHITs and EMTs are in high demand, and employers are constantly looking for hard-working, dedicated employees for their teams. The healthcare field is full of opportunities, and jobs are waiting. It’s up to you to take that first step towards your future.