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Medical Records and Health Information Technician Careers and Jobs

Medical Records and Health Information Technician Career and Job Highlights

  • Most medical records and health information technicians have earned an associate degree, having studied computer science, physiology, anatomy, and medical terminology.
  • Doctors’ office employment will be plentiful.
  • There are only a handful of healthcare industry jobs that have no direct contact with patients—this is one of those.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician Career Information and Job Description

Detailed records are kept of every time a patient receives care or interacts with a healthcare professional. Prescriptions, treatment plans, test results, diagnoses, the patient’s medical history, and description of symptoms are included in these records. Medical records and health information technicians manage patient record databases and perform quality assurance on their records.

Technicians are responsible for patients’ records from the beginning, having them fill out all the proper forms and ensuring that they are completed properly and signed. They ensure that all the information is in the computer database, and check regularly with physicians and other healthcare providers to make sure the information recorded is correct and complete.

There a couple hundred diagnosis-related groups, or DRGs, that medical records and health information technicians use to group patients by diagnosis. By assigning a code to each different diagnosis and medical procedure, they are able to keep track of how much a hospital or doctor’s office should be reimbursed by insurance companies using the DRG system like Medicare. Coding specialists are known as health information coders, coding specialists, medical record coders, or coder/abstractors. Emergency systems and long-term healthcare use different coding systems.

Computer systems help technicians handle large amounts of data that enable them to answer statistical questions, conduct research, provide information for law suits, and overall advance patient care. For example, technicians specializing in cancer patient information and records contribute information for research.

Medical records and health information technicians’ responsibilities depend in large part on the size of institution with which they are working. Smaller facilities may employ an experienced medical records and health information technician to supervise the entire records department, while in medium and large-sized departments technicians usually specialize in one area of health care.

Medical records and health information technicians who work in hospitals may be required to work irregular hours, such as nights or weekends, because the records department is open all the time. In other parts of the industry a 40-hour work week is the norm, with the possibility of some required overtime.

Eye damage and carpal tunnel syndrome are possible when working in front of a computer for long periods of time. Otherwise, the work environment is typically a comfortable office setting, with little to no direct contact with the patient. Attention to detail, given the record-keeping tasks of medical records and health information technicians, is an essential characteristic.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician Training and Job Qualifications

Medical records and health information technicians typically hold an associate degree, having taken courses in legal and ethical issues, database administration, statistics, medical terminology, anatomy, data encoding and abstraction, computer programming, and quality assurance techniques. Programs favor applicants with some life science background or high school computer courses.

Promotion opportunities come usually after at least 3 years of work experience and completion of the company’s additional training programs. Though it has been more common in the past than it will be in the future, some information clerks could be promoted to become medical records and health information technicians.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers a written test to persons with an associate degree from a CAAHEP- (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) accredited program. Passing the test earns the technician the title Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). One must hold a degree from a CAAHEP-accredited school in order to take the test—there are no alternative methods. There were some 180 accredited programs in 2003 for health information technicians. Coding specialists may seek certification, though it is a voluntary process.

Specialization and management are two typical ways that medical records and health information technicians can seek employment advancement. Many choose to specialize in Medicare coding or cancer registry, for example.

The section supervisor manages medical records and health information departments, supervising all aspects of encoding and interdepartmental communication. Experienced RHIT-certified technicians can lead small facility records departments; however, larger institutions usually higher someone with a four-year degree in medical records and health information management to lead the department.

Job and Employment Opportunities

Better than average job growth through 2012 is projected because of the increasing number of tests and procedures and the increasing scrutinizing of information by insurance companies, attorneys, and patients.

Doctors’ offices, particularly large group offices, are projected to employ an increasing number of medical records and health information technicians, even while hospital employment in this sector will not grow as quickly. Nursing homes, home healthcare providers, and outpatient clinics will also employ a growing number because of the demand for well-kept records. In addition to job growth, replacement needs will provide job openings for medical records and health information technicians.

Historical Earnings Information

The middle half earned between $30,600 and $19,550 with a median overall of $23,890. The highest 10 percent were paid more than $38,640 while the lowest 10 percent were paid less than $16,460.