Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians hold jobs in a rapidly growing area of the medical billing careers field. About 40% of those employed work in hospitals, and the remaining 60% work mostly in offices of physicians, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and home health care services.

Nature of the Work

Whenever a patient receives health care, a record is kept of the observations, medical or surgical interventions, and treatment outcomes. This record includes information provided by the patient concerning his or her symptoms and medical history, the results of examinations, reports of x rays and laboratory tests, diagnoses, and treatment plans. Medical records and health information technicians organize and evaluate these records for completeness and accuracy.

A medical records technician assembles patients’ health information, making sure that patients’ initial medical charts are complete, that all forms are completed and properly identified and authenticated, and that all necessary information is in the computer. They regularly communicate with physicians and other health care professionals to clarify diagnoses or to obtain additional information.

Medical records and health information technicians’ duties vary with the size of the facility where they work. In large to medium-size facilities, technicians might specialize in one aspect of health information or might supervise health information clerks and transcriptionists while a medical records and health information administrator manages the department. In small facilities, a credentialed medical records and health information technician may have the opportunity to manage the department.

Medical Records Technician Training and Qualifications Required

Medical records technicians typically hold an associate degree from a community or junior college. In addition to general education, coursework includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, legal aspects of health information, health data standards, coding and abstraction of data, statistics, database management, quality improvement methods, and computer science.

Most employers prefer to hire Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT), who must pass a written examination offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). To take the examination, a person must graduate from a 2-year associate degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Technicians trained in non-CAHIIM-accredited programs or trained on the job are not eligible to take the examination.

Health information technicians should also have good communication skills, since they often serve as a liaison between health care facilities and insurance companies.

Opportunity for Advancement

Experienced health information technicians usually advance in one of two ways—by specializing or by moving into a management position. Most coding and registry skills are learned on the job. A number of schools offer certificate programs in coding or include coding as part of the associate degree program for health information technicians, although there are no formal degree programs in coding.

Long Term Job Outlook

Employment is expected to grow faster than average, growing a projected 18% by 2016*. This is because of the increase in the number of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that will be increasingly scrutinized by health insurance companies, regulators, courts, and consumers. Also, technicians will be needed to enter patient information into computer databases to comply with Federal legislation mandating the use of electronic medical records.Technicians with a strong background in medical coding will be in particularly high demand.

New jobs are expected to be created in offices of physicians, especially in large group practices. Other areas of expansion include home health care services, outpatient care centers, and nursing and residential care facilities.

Salary/Earnings Potential

Median annual earnings* of medical records and health information technicians were $28,030 in May 2006, the most recent year with complete data. The industries employing the largest numbers of medical records and health information technicians in May 2006 were:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $29,400
  • Nursing care facilities $28,410
  • Outpatient care centers $26,680
  • Offices of physicians $24,170
  • *Bureau of Labor Statistics Data

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