The need for comprehensive health care reform in this country is opening doors for people looking to improve their career options. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law an act that focuses on preventative care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A key part of this restructuring is a mandate for all medical facilities to use electronic health records.
The adoption of EHR means institutions will need to expand their IT departments to handle this change. The need for specialists in this field is on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the Health Information Technology industry will add over 37,000 jobs by the year 2020 – making this a promising career opportunity.
An electronic health record is a systematic collection of electronic data about each patient that is transmittable in digital format. This means of collating information allows for enterprise-wide networking between medical facilities and insurance companies and the transmission of real-time information from office to office.
EHR technology has existed in the U.S. for more than 30 years, but new laws have brought it into focus. The HITECH Act of 2009 provided the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a budget of 25.9 billion dollars to expand the use of health information technology. Since that time, more medical facilities have gone electronic.
The Washington Post reports that President Obama added an additional 787 billion dollar stimulus package to push industry expansion further. This included the development of a nationwide network to support EHR. Title IV of the HITECH Act offers maximum incentive payments to those who adopt the meaningful use of EHRs. HITECH provided the groundwork and the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act closes the loop to foster full compliance.
The Role of the Health Information Technician
Privacy is paramount in this field. It is the job of the Health Information Technician to protect it. Part of that process is the use of various classification codes to categorize patient data for electronic distribution. Technicians trained in this field:
- Review patient records to ensure proper coding and completeness
- Organize data for clinical databases
- Protect records against unauthorized access
These IT health professionals train and become certified on classification software. Education requirements vary from state to state but most employers require postsecondary study and an associate’s degree in EHR or health information technology.
The Role of the Electronic Health Record Technician
The EHR technician focuses on electronic records and supporting the network. They evaluate filing systems and equipment while maintaining database records. The job requires the ability to transfer paper records to electronic format for transmission and storage.
The federal government offers a number of web resources that enable students to learn more about EHR technology and helps medical offices train staff for the transition. HealthIT.gov presents online training documents that focus on using EHR to its full potential. The site includes funding information for offices looking to develop an IT workforce that specializes in this industry, as well.
Going paperless is a massive undertaking for the medical community. It requires facilities at every level to migrate their chart systems from the old-school paper format to electronic databases. This will require specialized training and IT implementation.
Every region in the U.S. has an extension office specifically geared to manage this change. Anyone looking to work in this blossoming field can check their extension office for more information or discuss training options with their school or employer. If looking to change careers or gain new skills, the EHR industry is a viable consideration in health care.