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What is a Medical Records Technician?

A medical records technician is someone who works with patient records in a healthcare setting. Technicians are responsible for making sure a hospital or other medical facility keeps track of patients’ visits and outcomes. A tech might also share or help other industry professionals refer to information in patients’ records according to HIPAA regulations.

The work is typically administrative and can involve coding and billing responsibilities. Some technicians work remotely, but the majority of job opportunities exist within medical offices and facilities. According to the BLS, the profession is projected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030. This rate is about average, but demand may increase due to aging populations.

Some people view the position as an entry-level career move, while others perceive it as more of a permanent responsibility.

What Do People in Medical Records Technician Jobs Do?

Medical records technician jobs do not involve providing care or medical assistance to patients. However, techs do collaborate with doctors, physician assistants, and nurses. They may also interact with insurance companies.

Technicians spend most of their days in front of a computer. They look over patients’ records to make sure all the information is correct, including test results, lists of symptoms, and prescribed treatments. A medical records tech helps update and organize patient data so that it can be easily located or referred to by medical staff.

An important part of a tech’s job is to use the right codes for insurance companies and billing purposes. Some of these categories or codes are also used by medical facilities for analysis. For instance, a hospital system might want to pull together aggregate data on survival rates for cancer patients.

Most records technicians will work with electronic health records rather than hard or paper copies. Most importantly, techs maintain the confidentiality or privacy of patients’ records. This means they won’t simply release the information because someone requests it.

Where Do Medical Records Technicians Work?

Medical records technicians usually work in a healthcare facility, such as a hospital or doctor’s office. The BLS states the majority of technicians work in private or government-run hospitals. Approximately 33% work in general or surgical facilities.

The next most popular place technicians work is within doctor’s offices. These include general practitioners and specialists, such as ENTs or audiologists. Some physicians work in independent offices, but most work as part of a co-op or healthcare system.

For example, a co-op may operate several facilities within the same city or region. Patients can see their primary physician at one of the offices but also see an alternate or physician assistant if needed.

Another work environment for medical records technicians is schools. Most public and private schools maintain a basic nurse’s office or health office for emergency and urgent care. If students become sick or injured while at school, the office addresses those immediate needs and keeps records.

Lesser-known places of employment include government agencies and facilities, as well as scientific and technical services. The latter might include companies that run bloodwork and patient labs. Firms that specialize in DNA testing are also included under this umbrella.

What Degree is Required to Become a Medical Records Technician?

Someone doesn’t necessarily need a degree to become a medical records technician. However, you can choose to pursue an associate’s degree in medical office administration or technical training in medical billing and coding. Others get an associate’s degree in health information management or even a bachelor’s in the same subject area.

Some employers may require a medical records technician to have certifications. The most prevalent cert is the Registered Health Information Technician certification. Following that certification, you might obtain your Registered Health Information Administration certification if you’re interested in a leadership role.

If you’re concerned about what degrees or certifications you might need, research what your area’s employers require or prefer. Some might even be willing to pay for your certification and degree program while you’re gaining practical experience.

How Much Money Does a Medical Records Technician Earn?

The BLS reports the average medical records technician earns around $51,840 a year. This is the equivalent of $21.75 an hour. However, wages can vary according to employer and experience level. Some employers may also offer overtime or shift differentials.

Medical records technicians who worked for the government earned around $54,650 a year. Those who worked in hospitals took home $46,970, while techs who worked in outpatient offices earned $40,220. Average wages in your area may be slightly more or less depending on labor market conditions and cost of living expenses.

These average wages are based on full-time positions, which represent the majority of medical records technician jobs.

Medical Records Technician Job Requirements

Each employer will have nuances in their job descriptions and requirements for a medical records technician job. However, most employers will expect candidates to have a basic understanding of HIPAA laws, coding practices, and data entry skills.

You’ll also need to be comfortable and familiar with computers, software, and electronic record-keeping systems. Since you’ll be sitting and working in an office environment most of the time, you’ll need to be comfortable doing so.

Employers also look for candidates who can analyze medical information, come to the correct conclusions about it, and pay attention to minute details. You’ll need to get along well with others and demonstrate that you can maintain confidentiality.

Medical Records Technician Career Path

The career path for a medical records technician isn’t always well-defined. Some stay in the position, while others start out in it to become familiar with the healthcare industry. Others move into leadership and management roles that oversee medical health and services departments.

It is possible for a medical records technician with a bachelor’s degree to eventually pursue director-level positions. These roles are charged with leading and directing health information management departments with service managers and records technicians. You can also move into roles like a pharmacy tech, medical assistant, or medical transcriptionist.

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