|Medical Billing and Medical Coding Career Overview
Duties and Responsibilities
A technicians responsibility include, putting together patient health information and insuring that the initial medical charts of a patient are complete and that every form is authenticated and properly identified and that the required data is correctly entered into the database, which is normally on a computer.
Technicians regularly interact with doctors and other health care professionals to gather information or to occasionally clarify a diagnosis.
Technicians also use computers on a regular basis to analyze data to try and improve patient care, control costs, to possibly use the data in research studies or for use in legal actions.
The type; along with the size of the facility, are big factors in determining the primary duties of medical records and health information technicians.
In medium to large facilities, a technician may specialize in one particular aspect of health information or they may even get involved in supervising transcriptionists or health information clerks.
On the other hand, in the smaller facilities, a credentialed health information and medical records technician may be given management opportunities.
A percentage of health information and medical records technicians specialize in coding a patients’ medical records for purposes of insurance. Those technicians are called health information coders, coding specialists, medical record coders, coder even abstractor.
Leaning on their understanding and knowledge of disease processes these technicians then assign a code to each procedure and diagnosis. Classification systems software is then used to assign each patient to of one hundreds DRGs, also known or diagnosis-related groups.
The payment a hospital will receive is determined by the DRG if the patient is covered by insurance programs that recognize the DRG system or Medicare. Coders use coding systems other than the DRG system like those required for LTC (Long Term Care), physician offices or ambulatory settings.
Some health information technicians choose to specialize in cancer registry. Cancer (or tumor) registrars maintain national, regional and facility database records of patients with cancer. One function of a registrar is to review pathology reports and patient records and then assign the appropriate diagnosis codes for particular benign tumors and cancers.
In addition, a registrar will normally conduct yearly patient follow-ups to track their treatment, recovery processes and survival. This information is then used to calculate both success and survivor rates of the different types of treatment by public health organizations and physicians. This information can also be used to locate geographic areas with high incidences of certain cancers and to help identify potential individuals for clinical drug trials.
A 40 hour week is the norm for most health information and medical records technicians; although, on occasion, some overtime may be needed.
For those that work in hospitals, which normally operate 24-hours a day, 7-days per week, technicians can work any shift; day or night.
Education and Training
For technicians looking for advancement it’s usually achieved by promotion to some type of management position or through specialization. Many technicians are obtaining their associate’s degree from area junior and community colleges due to convenience and flexible course scheduling. Others are leaning towards online distance learning courses.
Typical technician training coursework includes classes like health data standards, physiology and anatomy, medical terminology, coding and abstraction of data, database management and statistics.
Wannabe technicians can improve their odds of admission by taking courses like computer science, biology, chemistry, heath and math while in high school.
To qualify to take the exam, one must have graduated from a 2-year associate’s degree program that’s been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).Technicians that have received their training on-the-job or through a non CAHIM accredited degree program are not eligible to take the examination.
As of this writing, there were about 247 accredited CAHIIM degree programs in Information Management Education and Health Informatics.
Because experience in invaluable in developing and demonstrating particular skills and desirable qualities, some employers prefer those candidates with experience in a health setting.
Desirable qualities that employers look for in technician candidates are solid communication skills, accuracy and computer literacy due to the expected increased adoption of electronic records in health care facilities.
A growing number of schools are offering coding certificate programs or offer coding as an add-on to their associate’s degree program for health information technicians.
A number of organizations provide coding certification. Within particular specialties coding certification is available from the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialist (PAHCS) or the Board of Medical Specialty Coding. In addition, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) provides coding certification through three different programs.
The AHIMA also offers certification for Certified Healthcare Privacy and Security due to the growing concerns surrounding proper security of electronic medical records.
Cancer registry certification is currently provided by the NCRA with continuing education (CE) units normally required to renew credentials.
Highly qualified and experienced technicians may have advancement opportunities as an area supervisor in some of the larger medical records and health information departments, overseeing correspondence, coding or discharge section employees.
In smaller facilities, senior technicians with RHIT may be promoted to assistant director or director of a health information or medical records department. On the other hand, in larger facilities, the director is normally an administrator with a bachelor’s degree in medical records and health information administration.
After a few years of job experience and successful completion of a hospitals in-house training program; on occasion, health information clerks are promoted to health information or medical records technicians.
New jobs are expected in physician offices due to an increased demand for detailed records in the larger group practices. New jobs are also expected in residential care facilities, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers and home health care services.
Demand with be particularly high for technicians with a solid and experienced background in medical coding.
Ever changing government regulations and the continued growth expectation of managed care will continue the expansion of paperwork involved in filing insurance claims.
More opportunities will result from the growing preference in employers leaning towards hiring those technicians properly trained to work in an increasingly electronic environment. The