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Is a Medical Records Technician Career for You?

By DeVry University

April 17, 2023

Electronic health records (EHRs) are used in healthcare settings like hospitals, medical practices, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, where they are maintained by medical records technicians, who are skilled professionals in the health information technology field.

If you’ve been thinking about a career in the business side of healthcare, working as a medical records technician may be right for you. In this article, we will define some of the duties of medical records technicians and explore the education, skills, career outlook and certifications required to pursue this career.

What Does a Medical Records Technician Do?

Medical records technicians, also referred to as health information technicians, create and maintain medical records. Working in doctors’ offices, surgery centers, emergency departments, outpatient clinics or hospital billing centers, a medical records technician's duties and responsibilities may include:

  • Reviewing patient care documents to ensure accuracy.

  • Recording patient codes.

  • Advising on coding procedures.

  • Inputting and managing patient data using various software programs.

  • Collaborating with medical staff to clarify coding information.

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), EHRs (electronic health records) are the next step toward strengthening the relationship between patients and clinicians by making patient care data more timely and more available. CMS says EHRs can reduce the incidence of medical error by improving the accuracy and clarity of health records, reduce delays in treatment and cut down on the duplication of tests. Information typically kept in EHRs includes:

  • Demographics

  • Progress notes

  • Medications

  • Vital signs

  • Past medical and immunization history

  • Laboratory and radiology data

Medical records technicians are responsible for maintaining electronic records so they are accessible for future patient visits and can be easily sent between providers when necessary. This digitization of medical records improves efficiency, cutting down on the number of times a patient is asked to provide information and potentially reducing human error that could occur in this process.

Another important aspect of health information, and a key responsibility of a medical records technician, is communicating information to the insurers or payers involved in the healthcare revenue cycle. Accurate coding is required to be sure patient conditions and treatments are documented according to insurance companies’ standard reporting systems, resulting in accurate reimbursement to providers or when billing is sent directly to patients. 

How To Become a Medical Records Technician

If you plan to pursue a career as a medical records technician you will need training in how to manage electronic health records and in medical billing and coding. You also may be required to pursue industry-recognized certifications and the continuing professional education that entails. 

1. Complete Your Education

As with any other career, the first step for those discovering how to become a medical records technician is completing their education. You might prepare to pursue this career path by earning a credential in health information management or medical billing and coding.

At DeVry, our online Medical Billing and Coding Undergraduate Certificate is designed to teach you how to record, register, submit and track patient information. Working in a web-based learning platform, you’ll gain practical first-hand experience with simulated medical records, practicing real-world health information and coding skills.

Coursework in this program covers the fundamentals of human anatomy and physiology and medical terminology, and is intended to develop your ability to code reports using the World Health Organization’s ICD-11, the global standard for diagnostic health information.

By opting to add on our Health Information Coding (HIC) specialization, you’ll have the chance to take a deeper dive into procedural terminology, legal and regulatory issues, and both programs have CCA and CCS exam prep built into the coursework.

If you’re interested in continuing your education after earning your certificate, our online Associate Degree in Health Information Technology can be a great next step. Almost all courses in our undergraduate certificate apply toward this program1, plus you’ll have the chance to develop a solid background in current coding and chart management software, health data content and structure, insurance reimbursement procedures and medical coding.

Aspects of this program’s curriculum are based on current associate degree entry-level competencies as outlined by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and offer built-in preparation for the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification exam.  

2. Earn a Professional Certification

Two of the most well-known certifying bodies for medical billing and coding specialists in the United States are AHIMA and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). At some point in your career as a medical health technician, whether for your own development or as a requirement for your employer, you may need to obtain a medical billing and coding certification.

A partial list of medical records technician certifications includes:

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA): The CCA certification is AHIMA’s nationally recognized entry-level designation in the health information management field. Coding professionals holding this credential have demonstrated a high level of competency and professional capability. Professional experience is not required to sit for the CCA exam, but it is recommended that candidates have 6 months of coding experience or have completed an AHIMA-approved coding program or another training program that includes anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and basic CPT coding. 

  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS): The CCS credential verifies a coder’s skills in data quality, accuracy and coding proficiency. This credential is geared toward validating higher-level skills relevant to health information management professionals in hospitals or other healthcare settings. CCS-certified coders possess familiarity with the ICD and CPT coding systems, medical terminology, disease processes and pharmacology concepts. Recommended prerequisites for the CCS exam include a minimum of 2 years of related coding experience or holding the CCA credential plus 1 year of experience. 

  • Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT): The RHIT is a 2-year academic program that prepares students for a career in health information management. Most RHITs work in hospitals, but they can work in a variety of other healthcare facilities. RHITs gather and analyze patient data for patient care or cost containment purposes. They often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for both research and reimbursement purposes. They may also function as cancer registrars, compiling and keeping data on cancer patients organized. To pursue an RHIT certification, candidates must successfully complete a health information management program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC): The CPC credential from AAPC indicates that you have a strong understanding of how to code patient symptoms, diagnoses and diagnostic tests. Candidates must have a high-level knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology as well as procedural and supply codes.

3. Gain Experience

You can gain experience as a medical records technician by pursuing a medical coding internship. Research healthcare facilities in your area to see if they have opportunities available. As a DeVry student, you’ll also have access to our Career Services team who can assist you in finding opportunities that you may qualify for.

You can also look for internships by:

  • Searching employment websites. Even if you’re not ready to join the workforce in an entry-level job, you can use their search filters to find internships.

  • Using your own connections. If you have a friend or family member working in a healthcare setting, ask them whether internships are available at their employer.

  • Attending jobs fairs. These events are a good way to see what hospitals, health systems or medical practices are hiring and to meet representatives from those organizations in person. If they don’t have an internship position open, they may keep your resume on file for consideration when you’ve completed your education and are ready to apply for an entry-level job.

What Skills Do I Need To Pursue a Career as a Medical Records Technician?

As a medical records technician, you will be required to handle healthcare information with accuracy, integrity and professionalism, and to maintain the confidentiality of such information. Your daily work will likely require regular interaction with patients, medical professionals, or administrators. Here are a few of the soft skills the job requires:

  • Attention to detail: The very nature of medical records management demands that technicians pay attention to detail and maintain a high level of accuracy in their work. 

  • Communication: Processing medical information may require regular interaction with medical staff or administrative professionals at healthcare facilities or insurance companies. Strong interpersonal communications skills, in verbal or written form, will enable you to effectively collaborate with these partners. 

  • Problem-solving: When problems like denial of insurance claims arise, medical billers and coders become patient advocates, looking for ways to correct problems and work with insurance companies to find solutions. This skill is also useful in helping patients work out payment plans.

  • Conflict management: To manage emotional or stressful situations professionally and efficiently, medical billers and coders must be resourceful, empathetic and familiar with policies and procedures. This is particularly applicable in negotiating payment plans with patients, devising a solution that works for the patient’s circumstances without jeopardizing the finances of the healthcare organization.

  • Empathy and compassion: Medical expenses can put an enormous strain on patients and their families. Medical information technology professionals must be compassionate enough to step away from the number-crunching aspect of the job and become the patient’s advocate, looking for ways to get insurance claims approved or working out payment plans for expenses that insurance doesn’t cover.

  • Proactivity and self-motivation: In this profession, it is important to know how to work independently with minimal supervision. The ability to be proactive in resolving problems or conflicts in a timely manner, which may involve reaching out to insurance company representatives or providers about missing patient information, is an essential quality.  

Technical skills required for this career include an understanding of:

  • Operating systems and databases: Because of the increased reliance on digital systems, medical records technicians are required to be familiar with a range of systems and specialized databases used by healthcare providers and insurers. 

  • Medical terminology: As the medical records technician interprets providers’ notes to determine proper coding, familiarity with common medical conditions, symptoms, tests and medications helps to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their work. 

What is the Career Outlook for Medical Records Technicians?

The outlook for growth in this occupational category is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of medical records specialists to maintain steady growth at 7% between 2021 and 2031.2 The BLS projects about 14,900 new job openings each year, on average, over this period. This growth is projected on a national level, and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers, not just entry level.

As an increasing share of the U.S. population ages, according to the BLS, they will typically require more medical services. This, combined with the widespread use of EHRs, is driving a demand for specialists to code and maintain medical information across the whole of the healthcare industry. 

Medical Records Technician FAQs

What is a medical records technician?

Medical records technicians are healthcare professionals who manage patient information. This work involves compiling, reviewing and accurately recording all documentation related to a patient’s care. They typically use a health information classification system to assign codes to the diagnoses and treatments that patients receive, and this coded information is used for insurance billing.

Where do medical records technicians work?

According to BLS occupational outlook data, medical records specialists held about 186,400 jobs in 2021, 48% working in hospitals and physicians’ offices. Other settings include professional, scientific and technical services, administrative support services, and nursing and residential care facilities.

What is the tuition for a medical records technician education?

Your tuition will vary depending on the school you attend, your total time enrolled, any scholarships or aid you may qualify for, or other factors. Information regarding tuition, fees and expenses for our Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding and other programs can be found in our Academic Catalog or on our Tuition and Financial Aid page. 

Do I need a bachelor’s degree to become a medical records technician?

The simple answer is no, but it’s likely you’ll need more than a high school diploma. To get started along this career path, you should focus on obtaining the specialized education associated with medical billing and coding. If your long-term career objectives involve attaining more senior-level positions, this will most likely require you to gain some work experience and an undergraduate degree.

Our Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding was designed to stack into other programs, such as our online Associate Degree in Health Information Technology,1 if you wish to continue your education with us. If you choose to continue beyond your associates at DeVry, all but one course stacks into our Bachelor’s in Technical Management with a Specialization in Health Information Management

What other careers could I pursue with a medical billing and coding certificate?

The specialized skills gained in DeVry’s Medical Billing and Coding Undergraduate Certificate program may enable you to consider a variety of other careers, including Insurance Claims Specialist, Collections Specialist, Medical Biller and Coding Professional. Information on our website will help you learn more about career opportunities in medical billing and coding.

Is a Medical Records Technician Career for You?

Prepare to pursue your career in healthcare with our online Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding. This program is designed to familiarize you with medical terminology, the ins and outs of health insurance and reimbursement, health services and information systems, and includes preparation for industry-recognized certifications after graduation.3

With six 8-week sessions per year, DeVry can make it easier for you to balance online education with other parts of your busy life, by providing opportunities for you to learn when and where it’s best for you. Our next session is starting soon!

1At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credits will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.

2https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm 

3Eligible students who register for and complete the exams may be reimbursed for one exam sitting.

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