Medical records and health information technicians handle and organize patient records, and evaluate these records for completeness and accuracy.
They may specialize in coding patients' medical information for insurance purposes. They will tabulate and analyze data to improve patient care, control costs, provide documentation for use in legal actions and respond to surveys for use in research studies. They conduct annual follow-ups on all patients to track their treatment, survival, and recovery. They may supervise health information clerks and transcriptionists.
In 2004 there were about 159,000 technicians in the U.S. About 40 percent worked in hospitals. The rest were mostly in physician's offices, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and home health care services. Some worked in insurance firms that deal in health matters. In public health departments technicians supervise data collection.
Medical records and health information technicians usually have an associate degree from a community or junior college. Besides a general education, coursework should include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, legal aspects of health information, coding and abstraction of data, statistics, database management, quality improvement methods and computer science.
Many job openings require Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT). They pass a written exam from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). To take the exam, one must graduate from a 2-year associate degree program. This should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). In 2005, there were 184 CAHIIM-accredited programs.
Medical records and health information technicians must be able to:
• organize and evaluate patient records for completeness and accuracy, using modern record keeping procedures and computer programs
• make sure that patients' initial medical charts are complete
• communicate clearly with physicians and other health care professionals
• manage a department, if they have the training and experience
• work a 40-hour week with some overtime
• be prepared to work day, evening, and night shifts if working in hospitals
• pay close attention to detail
Job Growth for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians:
Job opportunities for medical records and health information technicians will grow much faster than average for all occupations. Most new jobs are expected to be in physician's offices because of increasing demand for detailed records. Rapid growth also is expected in home health care services, outpatient care centers, and nursing and residential care facilities.
How much do medical records and health information technicians earn? In 2004 median annual earnings were $25,590. Fifty percent earned between $20,650 and $32,990. The lowest salaries were less than $17,720, and the highest more than $41,760.
A Day in a Medical Records Technician's Life:
On a typical day a medical records technician will:
• organize and evaluate patient records for completeness and accuracy
• make sure that patients' initial medical charts are complete and entered in the computer
• communicate with physicians to clarify diagnoses or to obtain additional information
• assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure
• consult classification manuals concerning disease processes
• use computer software to assign the patient to one of several hundred "diagnosis-related groups," or DRGs
• tabulate and analyze data
• review patient records and pathology reports
• conduct annual follow-ups on all patients in the registry
I hope this article gives you a good idea of what is involved in the career of a Medical Records Technician. Health care is the largest industry in the world. In the U.S. about 14 million people work in the health care field. More new wage and salary jobs are in health care than in any other industry. (Some figures from Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
Author Mike Clark is the director of Health Care Hiring an online portal to the health care and medical community. Check out this website to find out more about career & training opportunities, and nationwide employer contact information, in the health care and medical sector.