In the healthcare industry, medical records serve two basic purposes. They keep a history of a patient’s treatment and they are used to bill insurance companies for reimbursement. It goes without saying that medical records must be accurate and accessible and this is the job of a medical record technician (also known as a health information system technician).
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical records and health information technicians can realize a median salary of $32,350 per year and they expect that the career field will grow 21% through 2020 which is faster than average. The fast growth is due to factors such as an aging Baby Boomer population and changes in the delivery of healthcare services as prescribed by the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).
Since all health information on a patient is stored electronically these days, the medical record technician’s primary responsibility is to make sure that the patient data is entered. The technician will probably use computer screens generated from healthcare software applications to enter the data or it may be submitted electronically by employer groups during annual enrollment.
After the information is in the system, the next responsibility of the medical records technician is to ensure that it is secure, kept confidential, and accessible. Security, when it comes to patient information, has both physical and electronic aspects. Access must be controlled into areas where medical records technicians work in addition to protection of the information through passwords as well as levels of access within the software to interface with databases.
Medical records technicians also fill medical coder positions where they configure patient information in a format required for healthcare claims reimbursement by insurance companies. They apply codes to claim information that are universally recognized such as the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code set and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code set.
Those desiring to enter this field can do so with a high school education however employers desire those with at least an associate degree or certificate in health information technology. This is due to the modern complexity of health information systems and to the fact that practically every operation in a healthcare facility or insurance company is centered on the accuracy and accessibility of patient data.
This field does not involve direct patient care. Medical records technicians typically work in an office environment within hospitals, physician’s offices, and specialty care facilities such as nursing homes. They almost always work full time during normal business hours although in 24-hour operations such as hospitals they may be called to do shift work if required.
If you are a technical and analytical type of person interested in a career in the healthcare industry, the field of medical records and health information technicians might be right for you. Check out the educational opportunities to open the door to this field today.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm.
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