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Although the roles of medical records professionals vary, the main responsibility is the management of a patient’s medical information. With advancements in technology, this often means overseeing the information stored in a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR). EMRs house files of patient information electronically as opposed to paper format. In order to maintain the integrity of data in a patient’s EMR, medical-records professionals need a certain level of education and training in order to pursue a career in the industry.
Take prerequisites courses. Medical-records professionals, also known as health information professionals, need prerequisite courses to gain an understanding of the health care industry. Courses such as medical terminology, introduction to health systems and technology in health care are helpful in pursuing a career with EMRs. These courses can be taken through local community colleges or online.
Gain an understanding of technology. EMRs deal specifically with computerized technology, so a basic understanding of computers and software programs is required. Medical-records professionals use EMRs to ensure patient information accuracy, analyze data, review disease patterns and treatment outcomes, and assist in reimbursement assignment. A level of comfort and familiarity with technology is key in working with EMRs.
Decide your level of dedication. Medicalrecords professionals studying as health information technicians (HITs) obtain at least an associate’s degree. HITs mainly perform daily duties within a medical-records department, including entering information into the EMR and ensuring the completeness of the data. Health information management (HIM) professionals have bachelor’s degrees or higher. HIM professionals mainly manage the medical-records department, including the safety, security, integration and training of EMRs.
Find an accredited school. Schools that are approved for health information program accreditation are often better choices than nonaccredited schools because they have met a high level of standards and requirements. Research schools online, and verify accreditations through organizations like the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. The CAHIIM accredits degree-granting programs in health informatics and information management.
Become certified. Medical-records professionals can also voluntarily obtain a specialized certification by taking a national certification examination. Passing the exam and becoming certified reflects a level of expertise and dedication above and beyond education that is valued by employers. Health information technicians can receive the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification. Health information management graduates can receive a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification. There are also specialized certifications that deal with EMR information, like the Certified in Health Care Privacy and Security (CHPS) certification.
Gain experience. A major complaint from medical-records employers is the lack of qualified individuals to meet growing needs. The employer is looking not only for education but also for experience with EMRs. Consider an internship with a concentration on working with EMRs. This invaluable experience is viewed favorably by prospective employers. Also, a part-time job in a medical-records department will help with experience and may also lead to advancements once a degree is obtained.
There are many online scams that promise quick and easy training for a career in electronic medical records. While there are many legitimate and accredited online schools providing this training, it is recommended that you thoroughly research any school or training prior to committing.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
- “Health Information Management Technology: An Applied Approach;” Merida L. Johns, PhD; 2002
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