Navigate Health Information Technician Training in New Mexico: Your Ultimate Guide

Are you considering a career as a health information technician in New Mexico? Gaining the right training and certification is essential for success in this field. Health information technician training in New Mexico programs equips students with the skills needed to manage and analyze patient data, ensuring fluency in the latest health IT standards. With accredited programs and routes to certification such as the RHIT exam, New Mexico offers robust educational opportunities for aspiring health information professionals.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to the best HIT training programs in the state, the skills they teach, and how they can pave the way to a thriving career in healthcare.

Exploring Health Information Technology Programs in New Mexico

New Mexico is home to several institutions offering quality health information technology programs, each with its unique approach and benefits. One of these is Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), which offers a Health Information Technology program that:

  • Equips students with technical skills for managing patient health information
  • Paves the way to the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation
  • Is CAHIM accredited, affirming the quality and rigour of its curriculum
  • Caters to a broad range of students seeking practical entry-level skills in health information technology

Another notable institution is San Juan College, boasting a CAHIIM-accredited Health Information Technology program that prepares students for the RHIT exam and to become experts in the healthcare data management field. Their program’s accreditation is valid through 2029-2030, attesting to its ongoing commitment to quality education.

The University of New Mexico’s Gallup campus also offers a two-year A.S. Health Information Technology program, which combines online and on-site instruction, training students to maintain accurate electronic health records.

Pathways to Become a Registered Health Information Technician

Understanding the academic roadmap is the first step in your journey to becoming an RHIT. A HIT program typically requires the completion of 33 credits in general education across various disciplines. This foundational knowledge provides a balanced perspective, complementing the specialized coursework in health information technology.

The specialized coursework focuses on areas such as:

  • Health data standards
  • Comprehensive computer skills
  • Medical terminology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Health law

These courses are designed to provide a deep understanding of the healthcare industry and equip students with the skills necessary to handle real-world challenges in health information management.

Essential Skills Acquired Through HIT Training

New Mexico’s HIT training programs aim to arm students with a robust set of skills. These programs place a strong emphasis on enhancing technical skills and computer literacy, covering critical areas such as health data standards and comprehensive computer skills. These skills are essential for today’s health information field, where data management and analysis are at the forefront.

Beyond technical skills, HIT training also imparts a deep understanding of medical knowledge. Students learn:

These are key components for understanding the healthcare industry and the healthcare system. The HIT curriculum also includes a solid foundation in health data management, including the study of medical codes, which supports the management and integrity of electronic health records.

The Role of Health Information Technicians in the Healthcare Industry

Health Information Technicians play an integral part in the healthcare industry. They are the backbone of health data management, tasked with:

  • Analyzing health records
  • Coding for reimbursement
  • Ensuring patient privacy
  • Maintaining health record systems

These professionals can be found across a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, physician practices, and long-term care facilities. Their work significantly enhances patient safety by reducing medication errors and improving healthcare quality.

Health Data Management and Patient Records

HIT professionals play a significant role in:

  • Organizing and maintaining patient records
  • Ensuring data accuracy
  • Managing clinical databases
  • Updating medical history records
  • Reviewing patient data for accuracy
  • Tracking outstanding records
  • Gathering information from patient treatments and follow-ups
  • Analyzing and providing data for inquiries such as legal requests, authorizations, and record requests

The responsibilities of a health information technician include:

  • Ensuring the accuracy and quality control of patient data within clinical databases and registries
  • Recording data electronically for purposes such as collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
  • Maintaining the integrity of health data
  • Ensuring the confidentiality, security, and accessibility of medical records
  • Handling sensitive information like prescriptions and treatment histories

Accreditation and Certification: Keys to a Successful HIT Career

Deciding to pursue a career in HIT is only the first step. To set yourself up for success, you must comprehend the significance of accreditation and certification. CAHIIM accreditation is a mark of quality for health informatics and information management education, ensuring that HIT programs meet professional standards. A program with CAHIIM accreditation signifies that it has undergone a peer-reviewed process and meets or exceeds set accreditation standards.

Preparing for the RHIT Certification Exam

Taking the RHIT certification exam is a significant milestone in a HIT professional’s career. The exam consists of 130-160 questions, covers six domains, and has a time limit of 3.5 hours. Candidates in their final term of a CAHIIM-accredited program or those who have completed the coursework but have not yet graduated may take the RHIT exam early.

Preparing for the exam is no small task. It requires diligent study and practice. Candidates should engage in practice tests to identify areas of improvement, ensure comprehension of each domain, and develop a timed test-taking strategy.

Benefits of AHIMA Membership

Becoming a member of AHIMA can provide additional benefits for HIT students and professionals. One of the most significant benefits is access to scholarships for students pursuing education in health information management and technology.

Practical Experience in Health Information Technology

Although theoretical knowledge is vital, practical experience in HIT is essential to mastering technical skills and comprehending real-world challenges in the healthcare industry. On-campus HIT programs often offer hands-on learning experiences, which are beneficial for mastering technical skills in health information technology.

In-person HIT programs encourage easier collaboration and interaction with peers and instructors, contributing to an enhanced learning experience.

Gaining Practical Experience in a Health Care Setting

Graduating from a HIT program in New Mexico typically requires completing an internship, which may take place in healthcare settings such as hospitals or clinics, where students get practical experience with health information systems and patient record keeping. The HIT practicum is a key component of gaining real-world experience, requiring a minimum of 250 hours of field experience and concludes with a project paper.

Students who are already employed in the healthcare sector can complete their practicum at their workplace or take advantage of employer tuition reimbursement programs. Various HIT programs at institutions like CNM and San Juan College offer additional practical experiences ranging from AHIMA Virtual Lab simulations to applied health information practicum and internships in professional settings.

Comparing Online and On-Campus Programs

Online health information technology (HIT) programs offer flexibility, allowing students to study on their schedule and manage education alongside personal and professional responsibilities. Students enrolled in an online HIT program often save on tuition and avoid boarding costs that are typically associated with on-campus programs. However, online HIT students need to navigate technical requirements and demonstrate a high level of self-discipline to succeed without the structure of a traditional classroom.

On the other hand, on-campus programs like those offered by San Juan College, provide a more structured learning environment. These programs allow for face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers, which can enhance the learning experience. They also often provide more opportunities for hands-on learning, which can be valuable for mastering technical skills.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities

Financial aid and scholarship opportunities can go a long way in making your education more affordable. Federal financial aid for health information technology (HIT) students is available through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which includes grants, loans, and work-study programs. HIT programs often have a financial aid office that can provide information about institution-specific scholarships, grants, or tuition discounts for eligible students.

Understanding the Selection Process

The selection process for HIT programs can be rigorous, and understanding it can help you prepare better. Entrance exams are a standard part of the selection process for HIT programs in New Mexico. The Health Information Technology Entrance Exam (HITEE) is required by many programs to assess a candidate’s aptitude for this field of study.