Having verifiable credentials will help a medical records technician obtain employment with a hospital, medical office, or medical records storage facility. Employers recognize the time it takes to become a certified medical records technician, and having certification can make an applicant more attractive than other candidates who have applied for the same position. If one has considered seeking employment as a medical records technician without seeking certification or related education, they should first learn what it means to be a certified medical records technician.
Benefits of Certification and Continuing Education
Not all medical records positions require more than a high school diploma. This lack of official requirements leads to the assumption; further education is not necessary. While it is true that an individual can get a job as a medical records technician without a certification, that person will not have the same opportunities for advancement that as an individual who is a certified medical records technician.
Taking the time to become certified shows employers that you are serious about starting a career as a medical records technician, employers will know that the position is not just a job to you. Once hired, individuals with certification are usually eligible to receive higher hourly pay, and higher raises. Medical records technicians who are certified, or in the process of becoming certified, are commonly considered for supervisory positions sooner than their non-certified coworkers.
Certification Training Period
The time spent earning a medical records technician certification varies from program to program. Some programs which are designed for working adults who are already working in the medical field require only a few hours of intensive training. Other courses, taught to those with no medical background, last between one and two weeks.
During the average two week training course, medical records technicians are taught the basics of medical terminology, communication, and some common filing methods. There are also anatomy courses which are similar to basic biology classes. These classes are taught with the certification test in mind.
Prior to obtaining certification, a written test must be completed and pasted. This test is usually given at the end of a certification course, but it can also be taken independently if the individual has previous medical experience. In many cases, certifications offered by accredited learning institutes are only regionally recognized. The certification once received must be renewed each year or two usually by completing a few short testing modules from home.
Additional certification can be obtained through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). This association provides nationally recognized credentials to medical records technicians. Obtaining certification through this program requires completing a written test which is 2 to 3 hours long. If the test is passed, and the individual has a 2-year degree from an accredited college, the Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) certifies the medical records technician.
Alternatives to Certification
Individuals who are not interested in completing a certification exam are able to receive some of the same benefits of being certified if they have an associate’s degree in a related field. This 2-year degree will put them ahead of those individuals who have no certification and no college background. Many hospitals and medical offices will offer higher rates of pay to individuals who have completed 2 years of college and received their associate’s degree.
Preference is given to associate’s degrees that are in health related fields. Health information and medical office management degrees require some of the same courses that are taught during medical records technicians’ certification courses. Individuals with an associate’s degree are also given more opportunities to advance to supervisory and management positions, especially if the degree includes administration courses.
Paying for Higher Education
One of the primary reasons a medical records technician does not pursue certification or a 2 year degree is because of the expense. College courses in the United States can cost $50.00 to $100.00 per credit hour, making one 3 credit class $150.00 to $300.00 and the average associate’s degree requires a minimum of 60 credit hours. Certification classes are often a minimum of $200.00 and registering to take a certification test might cost an additional $100.00 or more. The average medical records technician cannot easily afford to have the expense of classes added to their day to day living expenses.
Financial aid through school and government run programs is available for those who are seeking a 2 year degree from an accredited college. These programs include grants on a state and federal level. Grants for education do not have to be repaid as long as the student completes an approved program while maintaining passing grades. Students who do not qualify for grants might be able to obtain low interest, or interest free, student loans from the government or the college they plan to attend.
Hospitals and larger companies have financial assistance programs in place to help motivate their employees who want to continue their education. These programs are often tuition assistance, which means the company will pay a percentage of the total tuition costs, and tuition reimbursement. Most tuition reimbursement programs require the employee to pay all of the costs upfront, and the company will return the entire amount spent on tuition and associated expenses.
Both programs require the employee to provide proof of enrollment and copies of all education related expense receipts. Depending on the program requirements, the employee may be required to work a certain number of hours while maintaining a minimum grade point average (GPA) in order to continue receiving assistance. The company’s human resources department will be able to provide an interested medical records technician with company tuition assistance programs.