(BPT) - Tiffany Fair initially ruled out a career in health care. She assumed most available positions were for nurses, and she knew she could never get past her fear of seeing blood.
Fair's outlook on the industry changed quickly when she learned about the growing field of health information technology (HIT).
Fair recently earned an associate degree in HIT from DeVry University and now works for a large health information management company processing patient's medical records for legal or personal reasons to ensure the information is valid and complies with state and hospital laws and bylaws.
The need for professionals in roles similar to Fair's is expected to rise as experts anticipate 11.7 million new patients will enroll in health care coverage in 2015 through provisions outlined in the Affordable Care Act.
"For those who want to quickly enter the workforce, an associate degree in HIT provides the education and skills preparation needed to break into emerging health care professions that provide career mobility and fulfillment," says Dasantila Sherifi, professor and HIT program chair at DeVry University.
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of Americans 65 and older will more than double by 2060. An aging America will send more health care workers into retirement, and expand the population that requires additional primary care services to address chronic health issues. Workforce projections and population shifts signal emerging health care career opportunities in a variety of roles, including:
Health information technicians
Individuals who are highly organized and detail-oriented can thrive in a career as a health information technician. These professionals are responsible for organizing and managing health information data in both paper and electronic systems, as well as coding and categorizing patient information for clinical care, research and insurance reimbursement.
Demand for health information technicians will continue to rise with growing use of electronic health records by hospitals and physician's offices, especially in the areas of data analytics and population health. Further compounding this demand is the pending implementation deadline of the new version of the International Classification of Diseases, which expands the number of diagnostic codes from 14,000 to 69,000.
Medical and clinical technicians
A career as a medical or clinical technician requires both analytical and scientific skills for procedures and processes that can have significant impact on patient health. Responsibilities include the study and analysis of blood and tissue samples to determine normal and abnormal findings. Technicians are also accountable for logging data into a patient's medical records and discussing results of laboratory tests and procedures with physicians.
The growing aging population and diagnosis requests for chronic diseases such as diabetes and terminal illnesses like cancer means careers in this field will continue to rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment within the medical records and health information technician field is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022.
Radiologic and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologists
Americans are living longer, so their total lifetime health care needs are rising. Medical conditions such as broken bones and fractures caused by osteoporosis are common and frequent, as is the diagnosis of terminal illnesses, all of which can require imaging for correct diagnosis.
In these instances, radiologic and MRI technologists play a role in patient diagnosis and work closely with physicians to utilize X-rays, MRIs, computed tomography and other high-tech equipment to perform diagnostic imaging. Opportunities in the field are projected to grow 21 percent and 24 percent for MRI technologists and radiologic technologists respectively.
To secure a position in these fields, individuals should identify schools that offer degree programs or certificates that can prepare them for the constantly evolving field of health care and increase their marketability in the workforce. Certain states or employers may also require professional certification or licensure. "DeVry University's medical billing and coding certificate can be completed in one year of full-time, year-round study, allowing prospective HIT professionals to swiftly enter the field with the knowledge and skills preparation required to function as an entry-level coding specialist," says Sherifi.