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In Demand: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

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"Let me pull your chart." Keeping accurate records is a crucial way physicians' offices and hospitals care for patients. By logging every office visit, complaint, prescription and treatment outcome, physicians can identify recurring patterns and know a patients' medical histories before treating them.

Because doctors simply do not have the time to handle these records on their own, medical records and health information technicians are needed to organize and evaluate these records for completeness and accuracy.

If you are interested in one of the few healthcare careers that do not require much interaction with patients, here is an overview of the occupation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Medical records and health information technicians first review a patient's chart to ensure everything is complete. Then, they assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure, using software to assign the patient to one of several hundred "diagnoses-related groups." These groups determine the amount the hospital will be reimbursed from Medicare or other insurance programs.

Technicians also use computer programs to compile and analyze data, helping to improve patient care and control costs.

Training and Education
Most employers require medical records and health information technicians to have an associate's degree. Most employers also prefer to hire Registered Health Information Technicians, who have passed a written examination. To qualify to take the examination, technicians must graduate from an accredited two-year associate's degree program.

More than one-third of all technician jobs were in hospitals in 2002. The rest were in physicians' offices, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers and home healthcare services.

Medical records and health information technicians' duties vary with the size of the facility. In large or medium-sized facilities, technicians may specialize in one aspect of health information. In small facilities, technicians perform more generalized duties.

Pros and Cons
Forty-hour workweeks are standard for medical records and health information technicians. They usually work in pleasant, comfortable offices and have little or no contact with patients. There are plenty of opportunities for advancement; technicians may choose to specialize or become managers.

As with any job that requires long hours in front of a computer screen, technicians may be susceptible to eyestrain and muscle pain.

According to the BLS, median annual earnings of medical records and health information technicians were $23,890 in 2002.

Job Outlook
Medical records and health information technician jobs are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. As insurance companies, courts and others increasingly scrutinize medical records, the need for accurate record keeping will spur job growth.

The fastest employment growth is expected in physicians' offices.

Source: BLS October 2004

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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