Medical records and health information technicians are an essential component of the quality patient-care equation, though they rarely actually work with patients directly. These types of medical administrative professionals manage health information data, ensuring it's accurate, accessible and secure.
Their specific duties may vary depending on the office in which they work, but many technicians perform the following tasks.
Reviewing patient records to ensure they are complete and accurate.
Entering patient data into computer databases.
Coding patient procedures for insurance billing or other uses.
Ensuring health records are kept confidential.
The consequences of a lapse in a patient's medical records range from annoying to downright dangerous, so it is essential that these professionals are well trained. Medical records and health information technician schools are an excellent place to begin an education in this field.
How Much do Medical Records Technicians Make?
Salary projections are difficult to make because so many variables can impact your bottom line, including location, education and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the yearly national median salary for medical records and health information technicians in 2014 was $38,860. The bottom 10 percent earned up to $23,340, while the top 10 percent of earners made at least $59,160.
Industry is perhaps one of the biggest salary drivers for this profession. According to the BLS, the following industries paid medical records and health information technicians the highest national mean salaries in 2014:
- Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing ($50,170)
- Drugs and druggists' sundries merchant wholesalers ($49,520)
- Legal services ($48,680)
Where you live can also impact your earnings. With this in mind, the BLS reports that in 2014, the following states offered the highest yearly mean salaries for medical records and health information technicians across the nation:
- District of Columbia ($69,100)
- New Jersey ($59,740)
- Hawaii ($46,350)
Occupational Requirements and Job Types for Medical Records Technicians
Because medical records and health information technicians play such an important role in the health care realm, it is essential that they are well trained. These professionals must usually have at least a postsecondary certificate to land a position; some earn professional certifications and others pursue associate degrees. Because this is a highly technical field requiring minimal hands-on lab experience, students can often complete at least some of their medical records and health information technician education online.
However they attend class, technicians' education typically includes lessons in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health care coding systems, and health data standards. The BLS notes that certified technicians must typically enroll in continuing education courses throughout their careers to maintain licensure, so learning is truly a lifelong commitment for these professionals. Additional education may also improve earnings and career potential down the road, making it an important investment, too.
Some technicians may choose to specialize their work. The following are two job types medical records technicians may decide to pursue.
- Coding specialists: Also called medical coders, these medical records technicians may be employed specifically to work on billing issues. They may review patient records for preexisting conditions, confirm services are coded correctly and then work to resolve payment problems.
- Cancer registrars: As the name suggests, cancer registrars are technicians who oversee the records of cancer patients. They may code procedures for billing purposes, track patient outcomes and compile data for research purposes.