Allied Health
May 24, 2024

Become an RHIT: Education & Certification Guide

A detailed primer on becoming a Registered Health Informaion Technician. In this article, we explore the education and certification requirements required to become an RHIT.

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Become an RHIT: Education & Certification Guide

In today's rapidly evolving healthcare industry, the efficient management and protection of patient information are crucial components of effective care. Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) play a vital role in this process, ensuring that health records are accurate, secure, and readily accessible to healthcare professionals.

As an RHIT, you will be at the forefront of the intersection between healthcare and technology, contributing to the improvement of patient outcomes and overall healthcare systems. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to become a registered health information technician.

Understanding the Role of a Registered Health Information Technician

Registered Health Information Technicians perform a variety of tasks centered around managing and organizing patient health information. Their primary responsibilities involve ensuring the accuracy, security, and accessibility of health records, which may be in electronic or paper formats. They also analyze and code medical data for various purposes including research, billing, and statistical reporting. RHITs often collaborate with healthcare professionals like physicians, nurses, and administrators to ensure the efficient flow of critical health information.

RHITs have many options when it comes to work settings. These include hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, insurance companies, and government agencies.

Due to the increasing reliance on electronic health record systems and the need for accurate medical data, the job outlook for RHITs is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 17% for medical and health services managers between 2021 and 2031, which is much higher than the average rate of growth for all careers.

Salaries for RHITs vary depending on factors such as experience and location, but the median annual wage for health information technicians was $55,560 in 2021.

Education and Training Requirements for RHITs

Before embarking upon a journey to become an RHIT, familiarize yourself with the field of health information management and the process for succeeding in this career.

Below, we will discuss the recommended high school courses, post-secondary degrees, exam requirements, and additional certifications.

High School Preparation

Succeeding as a Registered Health Information Technician often begins with a strong foundation in high school. Students who have done well in science classes will have a good start toward understanding key concepts in RHIT training.

Extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or internships in healthcare settings can provide valuable real-world experience and help solidify your interest in pursuing a career as an RHIT.

The minimum qualifications for pursuing a career in RHIT are a GED or high school diploma.

Choosing an Accredited Post-secondary Education Program

To become a RHIT, you must complete an associate or bachelor degree program in Health Information Management (HIM) or a related field such as Health Informatics, Health Information Technology, or Medical Coding.

It is crucial to choose a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM). The Commission holds accredited programs accountable to ensure they meet required educational standards.  

CAHIIM standards for associate and bachelor degree programs include ethical best practices, requirements for the accrediting institution, outcome-based program effective measurements, and program governance. Choosing a CAHIIM-accredited program protects your investment in your future by making sure you are working within a program aimed at successful and effective training.

HIM Post-Secondary Education Program Curriculum

A typical HIM program curriculum includes courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health data management, coding and classification systems, healthcare law and ethics, health information technology, and quality management and performance improvement.

The program should also include coursework to prepare students for the Registered Health Information Technician certification exam (RHIT) offered through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). AHIMA is the professional authority in health information management and sets the standards for HIM professionals.

Completing the RHIT Exam

The RHIT exam is a computer-based, timed exam of 3.5 hours that consists of 150 questions. There are 20 pretest questions and 130 scored questions.

Exam topics may include health information systems, health information content, healthcare regulations and standards, health information security and privacy, and health information analytics.

Participants must receive a 300 or higher to achieve a passing score.

Additional Training and Certifications

Many HIM programs require the completion of a Professional Practice Experience (PPE) or an internship in a healthcare setting to provide students with practical experience in the field.

Depending on your career goals, you may also consider pursuing additional certifications in specialized areas such as coding (e.g., Certified Coding Specialist) or healthcare privacy and security (e.g., Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security) to enhance your marketability in the job market.

Certification Process for Becoming a Registered Health Information Technician

RHIT Exam Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the RHIT certification exam, you must hold a CAHIIM-accredited associate degree in Health Information Management or a related field. Additionally, you must have completed a Professional Practice Experience (PPE) or possess equivalent work experience.

Preparing for the RHIT Exam

Preparing for the RHIT certification exam requires dedication and proper planning. Begin by obtaining study materials and resources such as the AHIMA's RHIT Exam Prep book and online practice exams and quizzes. Connecting with study groups and online forums can also provide valuable support and insights from others preparing for the test.

Develop a study schedule that includes setting aside dedicated study time and focusing on key areas of knowledge. Practice with sample exam questions and seek guidance from experienced professionals who have successfully completed the exam.

Registering for the RHIT Exam

Register for the exam through AHIMA's website, and be prepared to pay the associated exam fees. Current fees are $299 for non-AHIMA members and $229 for members.

You may be eligible for early testing if you are in a CAHIIM-accredited program and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Currently in the last term of study
  • Awaiting graduation after completing coursework
  • Graduated and awaiting transcripts

During the RHIT Exam

On the day of the exam, arrive early and check in with the proctor. Have a valid form of photo identification and be prepared to show your eligibility credentials.

During the exam, employ test-taking strategies such as pacing yourself, answering questions you are confident in first, and reviewing your answers before submitting the test. Upon completion, you will receive your exam results, indicating whether you have passed or failed.

Maintaining RHIT Certification

Once you have obtained your RHIT certification, it is essential to maintain it through continuing education activities. You are required to complete 20 continuing education units (CEUs) every two years, with at least two CEUs related to privacy and security.

Keep track of your CEUs and submit documentation to AHIMA to ensure your certification remains active.

Building a Successful Career as a Registered Health Information Technician

Once you have obtained your RHIT certification, you are now on the path toward a successful health information management career. Here are a few strategies to help you gain experience and build a strong professional network:

Create Appropriate Job Materials

Update your professional profile on job search and networking websites, such as LinkedIn, to ensure potential employers and colleagues are aware of your qualifications and experience. Create a professional resume and cover letter that showcase your education, certifications, and relevant work experience. Additionally, create a portfolio to showcase your work history, certifications, and other related materials.

Job Search Strategies

Begin your job search by networking with industry professionals, such as fellow graduates, instructors, or mentors. Utilize job search websites and resources specifically targeted at HIM professionals, and attend career fairs and industry events to make connections and learn about job opportunities.

Interview Preparation and Tips

Before an interview, research the potential employer and gain an understanding of their mission, values, and services. Be prepared to answer common interview questions and practice your responses. Dress professionally and make a positive first impression during your interview. Follow up with a thank-you email or letter expressing your appreciation for the opportunity and interest in the position.

Professional Development and Growth

Once you have achieved your RHIT certification, you can continue to seek opportunities to grow as a professional by pursuing advanced certifications, further education (such as a bachelor's or master's degree in HIM), or specialized training.

Join professional organizations like AHIMA to stay connected with industry professionals, access resources, and stay current with industry trends and advancements. Networking and building professional relationships are key to advancing your career in health information management.

Moving Forward in an RHIT Career

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can successfully navigate the path to becoming a Registered Health Information Technician. From obtaining the necessary education and certification to building a strong professional network, you will be well-prepared to enter the rewarding field of health information management.

As an RHIT, you will play an essential role in improving patient care while working at the important and bustling intersection of healthcare and technology.

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