Medical Records and Health Information Technician
Medical Records and Health Information Technician
Education and Training: Community college
Salary: Median—$25,590 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Most medical records and health information technicians work in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. They most often work with computerized record systems and maintain hospital reports on patients. Medical records and health information technicians keep track of patients' medical histories and charts, ensure that all the proper forms are present and signed, and make certain that the medical information is correct and accessible to doctors and nurses. In large facilities medical records and health information technicians work in the records department under the direction of a medical record administrator. In small facilities highly experienced technicians may head the medical records department.
Medical records and health information technicians check each patient's chart before the patient leaves the facility. They make sure that all necessary information about the patient's illness is on record. These records must be maintained for insurance purposes and in the event the patient returns to the facility. In addition, records technicians sometimes collect information, such as the kinds of diseases treated. The statistics that are gathered from this information can help both doctors and scientists in their research.
Some medical records and health information technicians specialize in putting medical information into code. This code makes it easier to use the information in the files. Codes also make it easier to cross-index the files. Cross-indexing is an important part of a health information technician's job. In a cross-indexed system, information on a particular treatment might be available not only under the name of the patient, but also under the name of the disease or under the names of the doctors involved in the case.
Education and Training Requirements
A high school diploma is necessary to be a medical records and health information technician. Junior and community colleges offer two-year training programs that lead to an associate degree. These programs usually include courses in biology, record keeping, and data processing. After training, technicians are eligible to take a test to become a registered health information technician (RHIT). Although all technicians do not have to be accredited, many hospitals require it, especially for promotion to jobs with more responsibilities. Medical records and health information technicians should be organized and accurate, and they should demonstrate attention to detail.
Getting the Job
If individuals attend a training program, their school placement office may be able to help them find a job. Candidates can apply directly to hospitals, clinics, and medical centers. They can also check with private employment agencies and state employment offices for available positions. Newspaper want ads and job banks on the Internet sometimes carry listings for medical record technicians and clerks.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
With additional study, a medical records and health information technician can qualify as a medical record administrator. In addition, a technician can advance by specializing, such as becoming a coding specialist. Many hospitals encourage technicians to continue their schooling by giving them time off from work to attend classes. Records technicians who work for the government may take civil service tests to advance.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004 approximately 40 percent of medical records and health information technicians were employed by hospitals. The rest were employed in doctors' offices, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and home health care services. Some insurance firms employ a small number of health information technicians to tabulate and analyze health information. Public health departments also hire technicians to supervise data collection from health care institutions and to assist in research.
The employment outlook for medical records and health information technicians is very good through the year 2014, with projections indicating these occupations to grow much faster than the average. While hospitals will continue to employ the largest number of medical records and health information technicians, job growth will be faster in the offices and clinics of physicians, nursing homes, and home health agencies. One of the biggest tasks of the health care industry will be to keep track of the increasing number of medical records necessary for insurance claims, Medicare reimbursement, and legal actions. The rapid growth of medical tests and procedures, plus an increasing volume in medical records, will require more workers to keep patients' records up to date.
The record departments of hospitals are usually pleasant places in which to work. Medical records and health information technicians usually have little to no contact with patients. Most technicians work forty hours per week. However, since records are needed in hospitals twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there is some night and weekend work. Part-time work may also be available.
Where to Go for More Information
American Health Information Management Association
233 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 2150
Chicago, IL 60601-5800
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on geographical location and experience. The median salary for accredited medical records and health information technicians was $25,590 per year in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.