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How Can I Become a Medical Records Technician?

Research what it takes to become a medical records technician. Learn about job duties, education requirements, certification requirements, and job outlook.

What Is a Medical Records Technician?

Medical records technicians are also known as health information technicians. They organize and maintain health information data. Their responsibilities include making sure information is accessible in both printed and electronic form, and that the data stored is accurate and secure. They update patients' charts, track outcomes, and organize data that may be provided to registries or clinical databases. Some of the places they are commonly employed include the offices of physicians, hospitals and nursing care facilities.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Health Information Management, Health Information Technology
Key Skills Medical science and coding, medical terminology, health information management systems
Certification Most employers prefer RHIT certification
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11%*
Average Salary (2018) $44,010*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Would I Do as a Medical Records Technician?

Medical records serve an important function in the healthcare industry, not only for physicians and their teams but also for offices and hospitals that rely on accurate information when reporting to insurance companies. As a medical records technician, you would be responsible for updating and maintaining records that contain patients' medical information, such as their medical history, symptoms, tests and treatments. Most medical records technicians have little to no contact with patients.

The healthcare industry is increasingly reliant on electronic medical records, so you'll need excellent computer skills and knowledge of healthcare software. Medical records are coded before being submitted to insurance companies, so you'll need to be familiar with the medical coding language and programs. You'll also need to be cognizant of the security of medical records to ensure that the sensitive information they contain is not compromised.

What Education Do I Need?

Medical records technicians are employed in the Health Information Management (HIM) sector, and most technicians have at least an associate's degree in health information management. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accredits HIM degree programs in the U.S. (www.cahiim.org). In an Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology program, you would study medical science, coding, medical terminology, and health information management systems. You would also spend a considerable amount of time learning to use HIM software in campus computer labs. Many HIM programs are designed to prepare students to sit for national certifications exams.

What Certifications Do I Need?

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reported that many employers prefer to hire medical records technicians with certification, such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation, which is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org). You'll need to complete a CAHIIM-accredited associate's degree program in HIM to take the RHIT certification exam. You may also consider pursuing specialized coding certifications offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), including the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) designation (www.aapc.com). Eligibility requirements for CPC certification include AAPC membership and two years of professional experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Medical transcriptionists and medical receptionists perform many tasks that are similar to the work of medical record technicians. Medical transcriptionists need some postsecondary training, although an associate's degree is not required. They convert recordings made by physicians and healthcare workers into printed documents. Medical receptionists do not necessarily need any postsecondary training, but like medical transcriptionists they benefit from familiarity with medical terminology. Medical receptionists may update patient charts and file paperwork. Medical transcriptionists and medical receptionists need to maintain confidentiality, which is also important in the work of a medical records technician. The information medical transcriptionists transcribe may be added to patient files or included in medical reports, and may therefore be stored and reviewed by medical records technicians. Medical receptionists update and store files, which is a task that medical records technicians also perform.