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How to Become a Medical Records Technician

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How does a median salary of $40,350 per year sound? This could be you working as a medical records technician.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth in this field of 13% over the next 10 years. This represents a faster growth rate than many other occupations.

The position requires organization and attention to detail. You will be an integral part of the record keeping system and the billing and payment system.

If this sounds like something that might interest you, keep reading to learn more.

Job Responsibilities for a Medical Records Technician

Medical Records Technicians, or MRTs, work with computer-based software to maintain all medical records for their facility. This will include lab tests, X-rays, pathology reports, and more.

The MRT maintains all information at a high-quality standard. It must be accurate, accessible, and secure in either paper, electronic, or both forms.

Every diagnosis and procedure performed in a hospital, clinic, physician’s office, or nursing home receives a code or categorization number. This code allows for the processing of charges and payments for services. All patient information stays in databases and registries creating the patients’ full medical and treatment history.

An important role of the MRT is to assign ICD-10-CM, CPT, HCPCS, and PCS codes. Without this process, the billing and payment process would not occur.

MRTs are also responsible for preparation, maintenance, and security of all patient records.

Desired Personality Characteristics

Certain personality characteristics lend themselves to success as an MRT. For example, you must be very organized and accurate with an attention to detail.

Accurate information will be imperative for insurance company reimbursement. If all information is not accurately documented, insurance companies will not pay for services.

You need to have an analytical and technical approach to issues and problems. You must have computer skills and be able to learn new software.

Privacy laws impact everyone in medical care including the MRT. You have access to all patient medical records. This requires a high level of integrity and self-control.

Further positive qualities include good reading and active listening skills. You must be able to speak and communicate effectively. Dependability and independence are also essential.

These skills decrease errors and improve efficiency.

What Training Do You Need to Become a Medical Records Technician?

In the past, MRTs did not need training beyond high school. More employers now ask for advanced training, an associate degree, and even certification.

You can earn an Associate of Specialized Technology in about one and a half years. Classes are often offered online or on campus. Candidates typically must have a high school disploma or GED and have internet access with a computer of they are choosing to study online.

You will learn about:

  • Creating, managing, and editing medical records
  • Interpreting medical records.
  • Diagnostic and procedure coding systems
  • Medical records software programs
  • Electronic medical records systems
  • Basic medical terminology
  • Basic anatomy and physiology

You will also need to take general education courses. This meets the requirements for all associate degrees.

The last part of the program often involves experience in a healthcare setting with a mentor. This allows you to practice your skills in a real setting with actual medical record systems.

National Certification Examinations

After graduation, you can take a national examination for medical records certification. This is not required, but it often increases your marketability. The national examinations include:

The Certified Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS). This examination takes 2 hours. It is 100 questions. You receive notification of score results within 2 days. The exam focuses on:

  • Medical administration
  • Electronic health records
  • Use of software
  • Medical terminology
  • Patient care
  • Infection control
  • Medical law and ethics

The Registered Health Information Technician Certification. This examination takes three and a half hours to complete the 150 questions. You must pass with a scale score of 300 out of 400. The exam contains 7 domains focusing on:

  • Revenue cycles
  • Legal matters
  • Quality assurance
  • Information technology
  • Compliance
  • Coding
  • Data analysis

Most medical facilities require that all employees maintain a current CPR certification and/or pass various types of background checks.

Continuing Education Requirements

Once you are a certified MRT, you will need to renew your certification every two years. You will also need to document 10 continuing education units.

Continuing education allows you to expand your knowledge and skills as an MRT. This also shows your commitment to stay current with changes that occur.

Renewing your certification shows current knowledge of professional standards required for your certification. This ensures safety and efficiency in the workplace. You are integral in helping the organization maintain expected standards of practice.

Questions to Ask Your Prospective MRT Program

Exploring different MRT programs will help you find the best fit for you. Create a list of questions to make sure you get the answers you need. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How many students do you have enrolled in the program?
  • What is the average number of students per class?
  • Is your program accredited?
  • How many faculty members do you have for the MRT program?
  • What are the faculty’s credentials?
  • How many credits do you need to complete your program?
  • How many credited hours do students usually take each semester?
  • Do you offer online or only on-campus courses?
  • Does the program include on-site or internship experiences?
  • What is your job placement rate?
  • How long does it take most students to complete the program?
  • Does the program prepare you to take a national certification program?
  • Does the school offer financial aid or loans or advisement on these issues for those who qualify?
  • Does the school offer a flexible program for military members and their spouses?

Finding the right program can, for some people, mean the difference in success and never finishing the program. Find the one that will launch your career.

Work Environment

You will typically work indoors in climate-controlled areas. Medical records must not become too hot or humid as this may cause damage to both paper-basesd sytems or computers.

Your job may involve sitting, standing, or a combination. If you work in a paper record system, you may be lifting stacks of charts and filing them in their correct place. You may also have to use computer equipment to print/scan/fax/save various records.

Great Reasons to Become an MRT

Every career field has its positives and negatives. Here are some reasons that make the MRT career a great choice:

  • Only one to two years to complete the training program
  • Positive rate of job growth
  • You can likely move and work in most areas of the country with your training and certification
  • Career advancement into management may be available
  • You help people by maintaining a complete health history and helping them receive full insurance benefits
  • You work steady, predictable hours in most cases
  • There are often full or part-time positions
  • You will typically have benefits if you work full time
  • You will most likely work in a climate-controlled environment in-doors
  • You have a level of independence and responsibility in your position
  • You are part of the healthcare team and take part in problem-solving
  • You can choose to work in clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, and surgery centers
  • You can choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in many related fields and advance your education and training further

If you speak with an MRT, they will most likely add to this list.

The Final Word on Why the MRT Role is So Important

This may sound odd at first, but unmanaged medical records can potentially risk a patient’s life.

Physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, therapists, dieticians, and others create their plan of care, in part, according to what is in the chart. It is essential for information in the chart to be in its place. For example, if a report from a referring health care provider isn’t in the chart, the plan can be incorrect.

What if the patient receives the wrong medicine because an allergy update was not entered in all necessary places? What if the physician orders a treatment based on incorrect information in the chart? What if there is a delay in receiving a report from a specialist?

Any of these situations could result in harm to the patient. You must understand that patient care requires total teamwork. Today’s complex healthcare needs every part of the team working at full capacity for a successful outcome.

Inefficiency also causes loss of productivity, duplication of efforts, or incomplete tasks. Billing errors can occur which hurt the patient and the healthcare providers. This can also lead to legal consequences.

Don’t ever think this job is only a file clerk. It may have been decades ago, but not today. It is an essential part to maintaining the flow of care.

Does Medical Records Technician Sound Like the Career for You?

Explore our website to find out about all types of medical career training offered. Learn more about the school including locations and online courses. We offer programs for military members and their spouses that meet your unique needs.

If you’re interested in becoming a medical records technician, visit our admissions page. We can answer questions about financial aid and grants and loans for those who qualify and start your admission process.

Don’t wait. Start your new career path today.

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