Healthcare IT is a field undergoing a rapid and unprecedented expansion. This is due in no small part to the tremendous nationwide effort to make all medical records electronic, which, as mandated by the federal government, was required as of January 1, 2014. Since the switchover, the need for professionals able to handle the billing, coding and overall administration of records has never been greater. This is best summed up by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimate that the total number of medical records and health information technician jobs will grow by 22% over the next decade ― one of the fastest rates in the nation.
The Associate of Science in Healthcare IT, sometimes called the Associate of Healthcare Information Management, is a degree that, once earned, gives job seekers in the health field a distinct leg up on the competition. And while projections suggest it will be easy to get a job for years to come, excellent jobs with room for serious advancement will continue to be highly competitive. An education in healthcare IT tells employers you are versed in medical coding languages, the administrative software hospitals and caretakers use and the ethics of working in the medical profession. Most associate degrees also require some amount of in-person experience at a professional facility, indicating to employers you have the work experience they love to see.
A healthcare information technology degree online permits working students, many of whom are already in the industry in some capacity, to earn a great degree at their own pace, which can open doors for advancement with a current employer, along with countless outside opportunities. Below, we look at this year’s two best online healthcare IT associate degrees, profiling each program’s coursework, and reviewing each school’s online platform and online student services.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Sinclair Community College||Dayton||$$$$$||444 W. Third St.|
Dayton, OH 45402-1460
Sinclair's Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management (HIM) is available in its entirety online. Intended to be finished over five semesters, and consisting of 62 credit hours, the program's overall goals include teaching students how to handle sensitive patient documentation, properly use hospital computer and software systems and how to ensure they always adhere to the high standards and ethics of administrative hospital work. Sinclair asserts that careers available to graduates of the program include work in clinics, ambulatory care centers, rehab facilities, insurance companies and home care centers, to only name a few.
Required courses for the healthcare information technology degree online cover topics like health records and registries, medical terminology, various coding systems, from ambulatory to office coding and disease process. All students enrolled must also complete a professional practice experience in order to graduate; distance students must find an appropriate facility to conduct their practice experience and submit it for approval to Sinclair.
Online courses are a major part of Sinclair's total offerings, meaning the school has made a striking investment in its fully online students. The SinclairOnline guided tour gives prospective health information technology degree students a thorough introduction to how their online learning format works and even pushes visitors to a sample course so they can get a complete picture of how Sinclair's online courses work. Features available to online students include academic and career advisors, full-time tech support and online-only tutoring.
|2||Hodges University||Naples||$$$$$||2655 Northbrooke Dr|
Naples, FL 34119
Hodges makes it clear that the Health Information Management (HIM) degree they award will ensure graduates understand "where the arena of healthcare meets the cutting edge of technology." The healthcare information technology degree online program is conducted entirely online and requires 70 total credit hours to graduate, typically spread across two years' time.
The Hodges HIM program, above all else, is committed to teaching students who obtain a healthcare information technology degree how to handle confidential patient information, medical records, a facility's computer and information systems and the various coding languages used to record services and treatments. Courses required in the program include an extensive series of medical coding courses, a medical terminology course, work on healthcare ethics and two courses in health information management and tech; more general required courses include work in mathematics and composition.
Hodges has a dedicated online platform, with over 20 fully online courses, spanning certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees.
With an online health information technology degree in hand, graduates can move into a number of positions that fall under the BLS classification of “Medical Records and Health Technicians,” with roughly 185,000 employed under this status nationwide. The overall annual wage for employees in this field, as of May 2014, comes in at $38,860. The BLS further divides employment into a few industry categories, which breakdown as follows:
|Career||Number Employed||Average Salary|
|Medical Record and Health Technicians in General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||66,860||$41,350|
|Medical Record and Health Technicians in Offices of Physicians||39,090||$33,910|
|Medical Record and Health Technicians in Nursing Care Facilities||12,690||$37,670|
|Medical Record and Health Technicians in Outpatient Care Centers||7,160||$36,680|
|Medical Record and Health Technicians in Management of Companies and Enterprises||5,290||$43,320|
Bearing in mind that these are the biggest types of employers nationwide, students in an associate program will want to position themselves to jump on a position that ideally has a large base of employees and a salary at or above the national averages listed above.
Students earning their healthcare information technology degree part-time, while also maintaining a part-time or full-time position, will want to make sure an online healthcare IT associate degree qualifies them for a higher wage or another position with said employer. If neither is the case, these students will want to identify ideal employers in their area and begin to prepare the appropriate application materials so they can begin their hunt shortly after they’ve earned their degree. A great school will have career counselors that can refine students resumes and cover letters and direct them to the right employers as they near graduation.
Again, given the sheer number of health admin job openings, finding a position should not be hard, but the amount of effort you put into the process, especially with regards to your health information technology degree, can be the difference between another job and a truly excellent career.