Penn College Adds Health Information Technology Program

Published 02.29.2000


Job opportunities abound in the medical records field one of the fastest-growing occupations, according to government labor statistics and Pennsylvania College of Technology is responding with a Health Information Technology program that will be offered for the first time this fall.

The program, which will lead to an associate of applied science degree, is being directed by Daniel K. Christopher, assistant professor of office technology/medical records in the School of Business and Computer Technologies at Penn College. After the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, graduates will be eligible to take the national examination to receive the RHIT (Registered Health Information Technician) credential.

The occupation originated in the 1920s, Christopher said, explaining, "It's a field that's not real well-known."

But that's changing, now that more and more jobs are available with hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers, as well as law firms, insurance companies, correctional facilities and others, Christopher said.

The program's varied curriculum reflects the fact that students must possess knowledge of health and legal issues, including privacy laws.

"You need to understand what is in the records, and you need to be able to communicate with doctors and nurses in their language," he said.

A complement of computer courses accommodates the profession's increasing reliance upon computerized medical records. Some experts believe medical records will be entirely computerized in the not-too-distant future, Christopher noted.

An internship component will be available, and most area health-care facilities will be contacted about participating, he added.

Recommended subjects for high school students considering the Health Information Technology program include English/communications (required), biology, mathematics, keyboarding and some computer experience.

Some types of jobs available for Health Information Technology graduates include entry-level coder, medical records technician, abstractor, transcriptionist, utilization management assistant, quality improvement assistant, data analyst and supervisor.

Christopher would like to see an enrollment of 15 or more students in subsequent years of the program.

"Some students in other programs (at Penn College) have expressed an interest," he said of prospects for the inaugural group. The College also is considering adding a bachelor's-degree program for Health Information Technology, he said.

The U.S. Department of Labor has identified the medical records field as among the 20 fastest-growing occupations over the next five to eight years, Christopher said.

Anyplace that maintains medical records, he said, is a potential employer of Health Information Technology graduates.

For more information about the Health Information Technology program at Penn College, write to: Office of Admissions, Pennsylvania College of Technology, One College Avenue, Williamsport, PA, 17701; or call (570) 327-4761 or 1-800-367-9222.

The School of Business and Computer Technologies can be reached at (570) 327-4517.