Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Summary

medical records and health information technicians image
Health information technicians need to be able to discuss patient information and discrepancies with other professionals such as physicians and insurance personnel.
Quick Facts: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
2012 Median Pay $34,160 per year
$16.42 per hour
Entry-Level Education Postsecondary non-degree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 186,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 22% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 41,100

What Medical Records and Health Information Technicians Do

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. They ensure its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.

Work Environment

Health information technicians held about 186,300 jobs in 2012. Most health information technicians work in hospitals or physicians’ offices.

How to Become a Medical Records or Health Information Technician

Health information technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate to enter the occupation, although they may have an associate’s degree. Many employers also require professional certification.

Pay

The median annual wage for health information technicians was $34,160 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for health services is expected to increase as the population ages.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of medical records and health information technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about medical records and health information technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Medical Records and Health Information Technicians Do About this section

Medical records and health information technicians
Technicians assemble patients’ health information including medical history, symptoms, examination results, tests, and treatments.

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data by ensuring its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.

Duties

Health information technicians typically do the following:

  • Review patient records for timeliness, completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of data
  • Organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries
  • Track patient outcomes for quality assessment
  • Use classification software to assign clinical codes for reimbursement and data analysis 
  • Electronically record data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
  • Protect patients’ health information for confidentiality, authorized access for treatment, and data security

All health information technicians document patients’ health information, including their medical history, symptoms, examination and test results, treatments, and other information about healthcare services that are provided to patients. Their duties vary with the size of the facility in which they work.

Although health information technicians do not provide direct patient care, they work regularly with registered nurses and other healthcare professionals. They meet with these workers to clarify diagnoses or to get additional information to make sure that records are complete and accurate.

The increasing use of electronic health records (EHRs) will continue to change the job responsibilities of health information technicians. Federal legislation provides incentives for physicians’ offices and hospitals to implement EHR systems into their practice. This will lead to continued adoption of this software in these facilities. Technicians will need to be familiar with, or be able to learn, EHR computer software, follow EHR security and privacy practices, and analyze electronic data to improve healthcare information as more healthcare providers and hospitals adopt EHR systems.

Health information technicians can specialize in many aspects of health information. Some work as medical coders, sometimes called coding specialists, or as cancer registrars.

Medical coders typically do the following:

  • Review patient information for preexisting conditions such as diabetes
  • Retrieve patient records for medical personnel
  • Work as a liaison between the health clinician and billing offices

Cancer registrars typically do the following:

  • Review patient records and pathology reports for completeness and accuracy
  • Assign classification codes to represent the diagnosis and treatment of cancers and benign tumors
  • Conduct annual follow-ups to track treatment, survival, and recovery
  • Analyze and compile cancer patient information for research purposes

Maintain facility, regional, and national databases of cancer patients.

Work Environment About this section

Medical records and health information technicians
This is one of the few health-related occupations in which there is no direct hands-on patient care.

Health information technicians held about 186,300 jobs in 2012. Most health information technicians work in hospitals or physicians’ offices. Others work in nursing care facilities or for government entities. Technicians typically work at desks or in offices and may spend many hours in front of computer monitors.

The industries that employed the most health information technicians in 2012 were as follows:

General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private37%
Offices of physicians22
Nursing and residential care facilities9
Government5

Work Schedules

Most health information technicians work full time. In healthcare facilities that are always open, such as hospitals, technicians may work evening or overnight shifts.

How to Become a Medical Records or Health Information Technician About this section

Medical records and health information technicians
Technicians organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries.

Health information technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate to enter the occupation, although they may have an associate’s degree. Many employers also require professional certification.

Education

Postsecondary certificate and associate’s degree programs in health information technology typically include courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health data requirements and standards, classification and coding systems, healthcare reimbursement methods, healthcare statistics, and computer systems. Applicants to health information technology programs increase their chances of admission by taking high school courses in health, computer science, math, and biology.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Health information technicians must be able to understand and follow medical records and diagnoses, and then decide how best to code them in a patient’s medical records.

Detail oriented. Health information technicians must be accurate when recording and coding patient information.

Integrity. Health information technicians work with patient data that are required, by law, to be kept confidential. They must exercise caution when working with this information in order to protect patient confidentiality.

Interpersonal skills. Health information technicians need to be able to discuss patient information, discrepancies, and data requirements with other professionals such as physicians and finance personnel.

Technical skills. Health information technicians must be able to use coding and classification software and the EHR system that their healthcare organization or physician practice has adopted.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most employers prefer to hire health information technicians who have professional certification. A health information technician can earn certification from several organizations. Some organizations base certification on passing an exam. Others require graduation from an accredited program. Once certified, technicians typically must renew their certification regularly and take continuing education courses. Certifications include Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR), among others. Many coding certifications require coding experience in a work setting.

Advancement

Health information technicians may advance to other health information positions by receiving additional education and certifications. Technicians can advance to a medical or health services manager after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree program and taking the required certification courses. Requirements vary by facility.

Pay About this section

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Health technologists and technicians

$40,380

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Medical records and health information technicians

$34,160

 

The median annual wage for health information technicians was $34,160 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,250, and the top 10 percent earned more than $56,200.

Most health information technicians work full time. In healthcare facilities that are always open, such as hospitals, technicians may work evening or overnight shifts.

Job Outlook About this section

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Health technologists and technicians

24%

Medical records and health information technicians

22%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for health services is expected to increase as the population ages. An aging population will need more medical tests, treatments, and procedures. This will mean more claims for reimbursement from insurance companies. Additional records, coupled with widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) by all types of healthcare providers, could lead to an increased need for technicians to organize and manage the associated information in all areas of the healthcare industry.

Cancer registrars are expected to continue to be in high demand. As the population ages, there will likely be more types of special purpose registries because many illnesses are detected and treated later in life.     

Job Prospects

Prospects will be best for those with a certification in health information, such as the RHIT or the CTR. As EHR systems continue to become more common, health information technicians with computer skills will be needed to use them.

Employment projections data for medical records and health information technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Medical records and health information technicians

29-2071 186,300 227,500 22 41,100 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of medical records and health information technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Medical transcriptionists

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare professionals make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,020
Medical and health services managers

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers, also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They might manage an entire facility or specialize in managing a specific clinical area or department, or manage a medical practice for a group of physicians. Medical and health services managers must be able to adapt to changes in healthcare laws, regulations, and technology.

Bachelor’s degree $88,580
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm (visited July 25, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014