“Medical records and health information technology” is a mouthful to answer when people ask you what you do. But that's not stopping thousands of Americans from heading into this growing industry every year.
The job prospects for the healthcare industry are good, but they are especially positive for people working in health information technology and management positions. Job growth for health information technicians is estimated to go up by 22 percent between 2012 and 2022; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Major legislative healthcare changes and general reform are making a difference in the rise of job growth.
Healthcare reform is also contributing to a major change in the way that medical records and health information technicians perform their jobs. Electronic health records (EHR) are becoming a new industry standard, replacing previously kept paper files and offering doctors a more accessible and coordinated way to store and share patient information. EHRs carry their own learning curve, which some of tomorrow's technicians are learning about today in school.
Thinking of a career in medical records and health information? Consider this article as a handy primer to help you on your way.
- What is an EHR? An EHR is the same as a patient's paper chart, but is kept digitally. There, they can be edited in real time, accessed from either dedicated workstations or – in the case of secure Internet-based servers – from personal computers or even tablets and smartphones.
An EHR may contain information such as a patient's medical history, a current list of medications, diagnoses and treatment plans, a list of allergies, immunizations, radiology images such as X-rays, and any lab or test results. This establishes a broad clinical view of a patient.
Software can be equipped with alerts that offer physicians reminders about immunization dates or treatments. Evidence-based tools can also be utilized to help a practitioner choose the best treatment plan for the patient.
EHRs are also part of a bigger health information technology initiative – creating a larger health information infrastructure that will allow doctors, no matter where they are located, to access a patient’s information and provide more coordinated care.
Eventually, nationwide health information exchanges (HIE) will allow patients and providers – including specialists, pharmacy technicians, radiology departments, emergency room departments, labs and primary care physicians – easy access to the appropriate information they need at a given time.
- What benefits do EHRs offer patients? Plenty of patients will be happy about the fact that EHRs and HIEs will cut down on paperwork. That clipboard of forms and the new patient questionnaire won't disappear immediately, but as information is accumulated and shared, it will lessen and lessen.
Another benefit of EHRs for patients is that his or her doctor will have the necessary medical information handy when and where it's needed. This reduces mistakes, cuts down on unnecessary or repeat tests and allows for smarter, more informed prescriptions.
On the same note, EHRs could save patients – as well as insurers – money. Repeat tests and procedures are too common, too wasteful and too inconvenient. Whether it's a routine blood test or an MRI that may cost up to thousands of dollars, patients prefer not to have larger bills and insurance premiums.
- How about doctors?
EHRs may offer perks for primary care physicians and specialists as well as the patient.
EHRs are easier to update and access than paper records. Some practices may provide tablets that are easily portable. Sharing is simplified through the Internet. EHRs can help with diagnosis, while reducing the risk of medical errors – and, as a result, malpractice. EHRs are often more legible than paper records resulting in a reduction in errors. And, physicians can transcribe their notes directly into some EHRs.
For many doctors, EHRs can also improve revenue through greater efficiency. EHRs provide more immediate financial bonuses as stated in the next paragraph, thanks to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) EHR incentives programs.
- What are these incentives? CMS has been allocated federal funding to provide incentive payments to providers who can show that they're meaningfully using EHR software to provide care for Medicare or Medicaid patients. The Medicare program provides doctors with up to $44,000 in incentive payments, while the Medicaid program offers up to $63,750.2 Attesting to meaningful use requires a knowledgeable health information technician.
Call Ultimate Medical Academy today at 888-216-8745 to discuss how to get started in a Health Information Technology Associate Degree program. You could be on your way toward a new career with your associate degree in as few as 17 months!*
Learn more about online healthcare programs and a Health Information Technology degree with Ultimate Medical Academy. Or maybe you're interested in a healthcare management degree online.
*Individual completion rates may vary.