The work of medical record-keeping is essential to delivering quality healthcare, according to the American Medical Association. In its Code of Medical Ethics on the management of medical records, the AMA states: "Medical records serve important patient interests for present healthcare and future needs, as well as insurance, employment, and other purposes."
The medical journal Breathe puts it more succinctly. Answering the age-old question "Why do I need to keep good records?" the journal cautions: "If you did not write it down, it did not happen." Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can cause real harm to patients. That's why records management is an essential function within any medical practice.
For those who want their work to benefit the wellbeing of others, the role of a medical records professional has numerous advantages: low minimum education requirements, a healthy job outlook—with much faster growth (11 percent) than the overall average for workers in the U.S.— high satisfaction with work-life balance, and an average hourly rate of almost $20.
In the guide ahead, we'll cover more details about how to become a medical records manager, including:
Here are some of the typical tasks of a medical records manager, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Those who excel in this field typically demonstrate acute attention to detail, work accurately, exert effective quality control, have strong interpersonal skills, and are computer-savvy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals working as medical records and health information technician employees typically need certification to work in the field. Some employers may require an associate's degree or higher, but it is not a prerequisite to enter the field.
It is possible to find a job in medical records management with just a high-school diploma or GED, especially if accompanied by work experience in another medical profession (e.g., medical office receptionist). However, most positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, require some amount of post-high school education, such as an associate's degree, which usually takes two years to complete.
For a faster track, a medical coding certificate program may only take six months to one year to complete, according to the professional organization the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Both Drexel University and Cornell University offer this certification online.
As early as high school, students can begin preparing for a career in medical records management by studying health, computer science, math, and biology.
As students progress to certificate programs or associate's degree tracks, medical records coursework usually covers such topics as:
Those looking to advance beyond the medical records management role may want to consider a master's degree in healthcare administration. This degree will position you for higher-paying jobs in information management, medical office administration, and health services management. You might also consider a master's health informatics in order to pivot your career toward the growing medical technology sector.
The U.S. Department of Education's Financial Aid offers information about FAFSA and other sources of aid.
Not sure what to look for in a medical records management program? AHIMA accredits programs at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree level and offers resources on:
In most instances, an associate's degree will be sufficient to qualify for a medical records management position. Your local community college likely offers the most affordable and convenient opportunity to earn this degree. Online associate's degrees tend to be much more expensive than on-the-ground community colleges.
Aging populations in the U.S. and elsewhere are driving a healthcare shortage. The aging trend doubly impacts healthcare availability. First, older healthcare workers are retiring, reducing the healthcare workforce. Second, older patients—who make up an ever-increasing proportion of the population—require additional care.
Now factor in an increase in chronic diseases and insufficient educational programs, and what results is a shortage of 15 million healthcare professionals worldwide.
This growing demand for professionals in the medical field has a direct impact on the career outlook for medical records managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks employment outlook across professions, the job market for medical records and health information technicians should grow by 11 percent job growth from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average expected growth for employment as a whole.
According to the BLS, the best candidates to become a medical records manager have:
According to salary-tracking website PayScale, the average salary of medical records managers is $45,830 per year, which works out to about $16.51 an hour—more than two times the national minimum wage. Professionals with 10 to 19 years of experience may see that rate jump to $18.57 an hour, per PayScale data.
The BLS listed median pay for the position at $40,350 per year or $19.40 per hour in 2018. Hospitals and physicians' offices are the two top employers in the field; according to the BLS, hospitals pay significantly higher wages.
The top employers of medical records managers and health information technicians, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following as the top states and cities for medical records jobs:
If you're looking for a recession-proof, depression-proof, pretty-much-anything-proof profession, it's hard to beat healthcare. No matter what happens, people will need to see doctors. As long as they do, doctors will need to keep records to track treatments and receive reimbursement from patients and insurers. That means medical records managers aren't going anywhere. And it's one of the few jobs in the medical profession that's open to people whose highest degree is a high-school diploma. If working in a medical facility and managing records appeals to you, this is a role well worth considering.
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