Career Summary

Median salary as of March 2010                               $32,350 ($15.55 per hour)

Educational Requirement                                          Associate’s degree, bachelor’s preferred

Required work experience                                        None

Number of jobs as of March 2010                             179,500

Job outlook 2010-2020                                             Expected 21% increase in number of jobs; faster than average for all occupations

Employment Change 2010-2020                                37,700 additional jobs in this time period

 

Source: 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 (visited June 29, 2013).

 

Career Overview

Health Records Technicians (also known as medical records technicians) organize and maintain patient records stored in computer databases.  Health Records Technicians are responsible for ensuring the accuracy and quality of these records and safeguarding access in accordance with the Health Information Patient Privacy Act (HIPPA), a federal regulation ensuring the privacy of medical information.  Health Records Technicians code and categorize patient illness or injury for insurance reimbursement, for entry into databases and registries, and to maintain a history of treatment.

The primary responsibility of Health Records Technicians is to record patent’s health information, including medical history, presenting symptoms and complaints, results of physical exam and tests, as well as insurance coverage. The specific duties of Health Records Technicians vary by type of facility for which they work.

 Specific Duties include:

  • Review patient charts for accuracy, completeness and appropriateness of recorded information
  • Organize and maintain information for clinical database and/or registries
  • Perform quality assessment by reviewing patient outcomes after treatment
  • Use a classification system to assign appropriate codes for insurance reimbursement
  • Use a computer to record patient data for storage, retrieval and analysis by health care professionals, and reporting
  • Safeguard the privacy of patient information to ensure confidentiality and data security

While Health Records Technicians do not provide direct patient care, they often confer with physicians and other health care providers to clarify diagnoses or obtain additional information to ensure the accuracy and completeness of medical records.

The growing use of electronic health records (EHS) will continue to change the nature and job responsibilities of Health Records Technicians.  For example, technicians will need to learn EHS software, understand and follow confidentiality issues and EHS security protocols, and analyze electronic data to improve the quality of health care information as greater numbers of clinical and administrative staff utilize EHS systems.

Many Health Records Technicians also work as cancer (tumor) registrars.

Duties of Cancer registrars include:

  • Review patient data and pathology reports for accuracy and completeness
  • Assign classification codes to represent the diagnosis and treatment of benign and malignant tumors
  • Conduct patient follow-up to track treatment outcomes, recovery, and survival rate
  • Compile and analyze patient cancer information to aid in research efforts
  • Maintain facility, regional, and national registries of cancer patients

Education of Health Records Technicians

As the field of medical records continues to grow, more and more employers are requiring an associate’s degree or certificate to obtain entry-level employment in this field. Associate’s and certification programs typically include coursework in human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, health data standards and procedures, classification and coding systems, insurance reimbursement methods, healthcare statistics, and computer information systems.

Certification of Health Records Technicians

Most employers in every state, including California, prefer to hire Health Records Technicians that have obtained professional certification. Such certification may be obtained from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) the most recognized and respected organization within the field of healthcare management. Certifications from AHIMA include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and Certified Tumor Registrar, among others.

As per the Web site of AHIMA:

RHIT applicants must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Successfully complete the academic requirements, at an associate’s degree level, of an HIM program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)           

OR

  • Graduate from an HIM program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA    

has a reciprocity agreement

For a listing of CAHIM-accredited programs in California visit: http://www.cahiim.org/accredpgms.asp

To obtain complete information regarding the RHIT certification, including the application process, fees, exam preparation assistance, and exam details visit: http://www.ahima.org/certification/rhit.aspx

Certified Tumor Registrar

The Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) is a designation awarded to cancer registry professionals who pass the NCRA’s certification examination. The NCRA Council on Certification sets eligibility requirements for the exam.  For details regarding the certification process, including exam details, visit http://www.ncra-usa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3280

Many of the educational programs to become a certified tumor registrar (CTR) are offered online.  The Web site of the National Cancer Registrar’s Association (NCRA) provides a listing of accredited programs. Visit http://www.ncra-usa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3299

The education minimum for CTR Exam eligibility is an Associate’s Degree or equivalent (60+ college-level credits in any field). Via Route A, if you do not have an Associate’s Degree, then you may consider an NCRA accredited DEGREE program. If you already have an Associate’s Degree, then consider an NCRA accredited CERTIFICATE program.

As per the Web site of the NCRA:

For complete details regarding the certification process, exam preparations, and exam details, visit http://www.ncra-usa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3280

The (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) SEER Program Training web site provides web-based training modules for basic cancer registration and surveillance, site-specific modules covering cancers of individual systems and organs in the human body, and informational modules. Many of the modules include self-administered quizzes to test comprehension and retention of the material presented.

State and local cancer registry organizations also provide education and training to become a CTR. These organizations prove valuable information, mentoring and networking opportunities that can be very helpful in terms of job search.  In California you may wish to visit the Web site of the California Cancer Registry at: http://www.ccrcal.org/Cancer_Reporting/Registrar_Resources/

To obtain a listing of regional registries in California visit: http://www.ccrcal.org/Regional_Registries/Contact_Information.shtml#

For an overview of requirements to work as a Health Records Technician in California at different levels of experience visit:
http://www.calhr.ca.gov/state-hr-professionals/pages/1869.aspx
While this information is specific to working for the State of California, the education and experience requirements may be generalized to other sectors as well and provide a useful guide in preparing for this career

Salary Information

The following chart provides salary ranges for Health Record Technicians with less than one year experience in select cities of California

Los Angeles $31,070. – $33,555.
Oakland $32,107. – $34,674.
San Diego $30,552. – $32,995.
San Francisco $34,785. – $37,567.

 

Ready to move forward towards a career as a Health Records Technician?  Review our list of Medical training programs in California.  To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.