Question: What’s the best way to apply to schools with health information programs?
First, visit the website of the accrediting organization for all health information management and health informatics programs (CAHIIM) and review the list of all accredited HIM programs in the United States. Visit http://www.cahiim.org/ for a complete listing of accredited programs. It is important to attend a CAHIIM accredited program if you wish to sit for a national credential exam (RHIT or RHIA) as only graduates of a CAHIIM program qualify to take these two exams. There are no other equivalency options for certification eligibility.
Question: How competitive is placement in a health information program?
Some programs have “open door” admission policies, meaning that if a student is accepted to the college, they can select the program of their choice. However, most baccalaureate programs and some associate programs have competitive placement. The applicant competes with other applicants on GPA, test scores, essay, and interviews for limited seats. Some competitive programs have a 2 to 1, or 3 to 1 acceptance ratio – this means of three applications submitted, one student will be selected. Talk with the Program Director of each program to learn about the type of placement practiced there. You should be aware that many programs do a background check (criminal background and drug use background) as a condition of acceptance to the program. This is done because a component to graduate requires students to participate in a field based internship (referred to as a practicum) and most healthcare facilities require interns to meet the same criteria as any new employee.
Question: Do you have any tips about applying to and selecting programs?
Be sensitive to any admission deadline dates (especially if the program has competitive placement) as there will be a time for student interviews either in person, or by phone and you will want your application to be processed and ready so that you can participate in the interview process. When deciding where to attend, consider whether you will be more successful attending class in a regular classroom setting, or if you have the discipline for online instruction. Many online programs operate on a quarter systems (8 weeks) and you will need discipline to keep up with your studies in the online format. We suggest running the search engine for the program level of interest to you (associate, baccalaureate, masters) and print off all programs in that category. Use the printed list to narrow your choices, and then contact the program using the email and phone numbers provided in the list. Is the program accessible to phone or email? Are they answering your questions? Some things to consider when selecting programs include:
Question: The college I am interested in says they are not CAHIIM accredited yet, but are in the candidacy process. What does that mean to me?
As a HIM student, if getting your RHIT or RHIA credential upon graduation is a goal, you want to be sure that you graduate from a CAHIIM accredited program. If you are just now enrolling, and the program is a candidate in the accreditation process, then the chances are good that the process of moving from candidate to accredited will be completed before you graduate; however there is some risk should the program fail to achieve their accreditation. This is an important question that you and the program director should discuss.
Question: I am confused about what standardized tests I need to take to go to college.
Some schools may not have standardized test requirements (such as a community college) but if you are looking at attending a baccalaureate or graduate school you should expect that standardized tests results will be required. Be sure to carefully read the requirements from the program that interests you. Some common expectations include:
1. Most students will find they have more choices in applying to schools if they take the standardized testing offered each year in November.
2. Use the same name on your college applications as you did for the test, or you may find that your application packets remain “incomplete”.
3. Each school you are interested in applying to have a code that you must submit to the SAT, TOEFL, or ACT testing agencies. This code is usually found in the school’s website under application or financing sections. Expect the turnaround from request to submission of test scores to be 4 to 6 weeks. For example, ACT scores are only mailed out once a month. Depending on when your request was processed it could take more than a month before the results are mailed.
4. More information about the testing requirements can be found by visiting the individual sites. For the SAT http://www.collegeboard.com/, for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) at www.ets.org/toefl, and for the ACT at http://www.act.org/.
Question: ESL: I can speak English, but it isn’t my native language. What standardized test should I take?
If you do not speak English at home or have only spoken English for a few years, you will benefit from taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
Question: When do I start taking health information courses?
Whether you are in an associate, baccalaureate or master’s degree program you must complete your general education courses (things like English, Math, History) in addition to taking the professional component (the actual health information courses). Programs vary by how many courses a student should have completed before entering into the professional phase, and others have prerequisite requirements (Anatomy & Physiology is a common prerequisite). In a typical baccalaureate program, your freshman and sophomore years are dedicated to completing the general education requirements and you enter into the professional phase your junior and senior years.