Health care organizations are more dynamic and complex than ever, and having qualified professionals to keep things running smoothly is crucial to having a profitable and functional office. The fact is, it takes highly skilled professionals to keep a health care organization running smoothly and efficiently, and some of the most important players in any office hold administrative positions. Fortunately, competent and organized individuals who pursue a certificate or degree in this field stand to benefit tremendously. Anticipated increases in the need for health care services are expected to lead to healthy career prospects for workers in medical administration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all health care support positions combined will see an increase in employment of 23 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. According to the BLS, the following careers are a few of the most common in medical administration:
Medical secretaries provide administrative support for doctors and other health care professionals. Their duties include scheduling appointments; billing patients; and compiling and recording medical charts, reports, and correspondence. The role and responsibilities of the medical secretary have greatly evolved through the years, particularly as the reliance on technology continues to expand. Today's medical secretaries perform highly specialized work that requires knowledge of technical terminology and procedures, along with insurance rules and billing practices. For example, medical secretaries transcribe dictation; prepare correspondence; and assist physicians or medical scientists with reports, speeches, articles, and conference proceedings. They also record medical histories, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, and order supplies.
Medical Records & Health Information Technician
Each time a patient receives health care, a medical record is maintained, which includes observations, medical or surgical interventions, and outcomes of treatment. This record also includes information that the patient provides about his or her symptoms and medical history, the results of examinations, reports of x-rays and laboratory tests, diagnoses, and treatment plans.
Medical Records & Health Information Technicians organize and evaluate patients' medical records to ensure they are complete, up-to-date, and accurate. This entails assembling the patient's health information, making sure that the patient's initial medical charts are complete, that all forms are completed and properly identified and authenticated, and that all necessary information has been entered in the computer's electronic record-keeping database. Technicians regularly use computer programs to tabulate and analyze data in order to improve patient care, better control costs, provide documentation for use in legal actions, or use the data in research studies. Medical Records & Health Information Technicians maintain regular communication with physicians and other health care professionals to clarify diagnoses and/or to obtain additional information.
In large to medium-size facilities, a Medical Records & Health Information Technician might specialize in just one component of record keeping, such as coding patients' medical information for insurance purposes. Using his or her knowledge of disease processes, the technician assigns a code to each diagnosis and procedure, and then uses classification systems software to assign the patient to one of several hundred "diagnosis-related groups" (DRGs). The DRG determines the amount the hospital will be reimbursed if the patient is covered by Medicare or other insurance providers who use the DRG system. There are other coding systems, too, such as those required for ambulatory settings, physicians' offices, or long-term care.
Medical transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians and other health care professionals and transcribe the recorded content into any number of high tech devices. The documents they produce include discharge summaries, medical history and physical examination reports, operative reports, consultation reports, autopsy reports, diagnostic imaging studies, progress notes, and referral letters - all of which eventually become part of patients' permanent files. The transcriptionist's ability to understand and correctly transcribe patient assessments and treatments ensures high-quality patient care and reduces the chance of patients receiving ineffective or even harmful treatments.
In order to understand and accurately transcribe dictated content, medical transcriptionists must have a broad and solid understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments. They must be able to translate medical jargon and abbreviations into their expanded forms, using reference materials if necessary. They also must comply with specific standards that apply to the style of medical records and, especially important in today's health care arena, adhere to the legal and ethical requirements for keeping patient information confidential.
Although many health care providers transmit dictation to medical transcriptionists using digital or analog equipment, it is becoming more common for transcriptionists to receive dictation over the Internet. An advantage of this method is that it allows the transcriptionist to quickly return the transcribed documents for approval.
Top Careers in Medical Administration (BLS, 2013)
|Career||Number of Workers Nationally in 2013||Job Description||Degree Requirements|
|Medical Secretaries||512,970||Medical secretaries perform a wide vary of administrative duties within a medical office or clinical setting. They use special knowledge of medical terminology and medical procedures to perform tasks that assist general medical staff.||Many medical secretaries attend trade or technical school to learn the medical knowledge required for this career. Earning a certificate is the most common way to get started.|
|Medical Records and Health Information Technicians||180,760||Medical records and health information technicians keep careful records of a patient's medical history. They check for inaccuracies, update records as needed, and ensure privacy. They keep current on medical record technologies and use clinical databases and registries.||The BLS reports that many professionals in this field choose to earn a certificate. However, Associate degrees in Health Information Technology are common too.|
|Medical Transcriptionists||68,350||Medical transcriptionists listen to detailed voice recordings from medical professionals and transcribe them into written form. They use their knowledge of medical terminology to create written records of patient procedures and outcomes.||According to the BLS, most medical transcriptionists learn their skills at community colleges or vocational schools. Typically, they earn a one-year or two-year certificate of Associate's degree to get started.|
Medical Administration School and Training
Beginning a career in medical administration doesn't have to be long or drawn-out. Because the careers in this field generally only require a certificate or Associate degree, professionals in medical administration are usually able to begin their careers within just a few years of starting school. The following table uses BLS data from 2013 to provide a visual for each medical administration career, as well as how you can get started:
|Degree Type||Timeline for Completion||Possible Careers|
|Certificate||Certificate programs vary in length. However, most last from 6 months to two years.||Medical Secretaries, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Medical Transcriptionists|
|Associate||Associate degrees can typically be completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer.||Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Medical Transcriptionists|
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, Medical Secretaries, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436013.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics," U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians,http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-1
Bureau of Labor Statistics," U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Transcriptionists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm#tab-1
Schools for Medical Office are listed in the column to the left.
This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.
Click each Occupation title for more details.
|Medical Records and Health Information Technicians||N/A|