Electronic medical records, or EMR, is one of the most significant and innovative applications of information technology to date, and its prevalence is radically altering not just the medical community, but the U.S. economy as well. EMR-certified IT professionals are in high demand as healthcare providers work to meet federal mandates that require them to demonstrate the meaningful use” of electronic medical or health records. Those who don’t comply will be financially penalized when it comes to being reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid.
While the healthcare industry has been slow to embrace electronic medical records in the past, the current demand for EMR-certified professions is unlikely to lag any time in the near future. Employment prospects are strong for professionals with knowledge of both healthcare and information technology.
EMR certification is a requirement for a number of positions in the field of health informatics, the specialized discipline that applies modern technology and research methods to the healthcare industry. Electronic medical records contain provider-specific patient histories, while their more advanced permutation, electronic health records (EHR), detail patients’ entire health and medical histories.
While a background in healthcare may prove helpful in EMR careers, it’s not strictly necessary. EMR jobs run a wide gamut and consist of duties as various as data conversion; product development; information analytics; staff instruction and training; technical writing; sales; IT support; and design or implementation of information and computer systems.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has yet to produce authoritative data on EMR careers, but it does project a 22% rate of growth in employment opportunities for medical records and health information technicians from 2012 to 2022. This is a much higher rate of growth than the national average of 11% across all occupations.
The salary of EMR careers will vary based on a number of factors such as physical location, education, the type of healthcare facility and the exact scope of the job. As this is an emerging field, the U.S. Department of Labor has not yet published salary data for this profession.
BLS reports a median annual wage of just over $34,160 for medical records and health information technicians as of January 2014. Careers on the information technology and systems side are uniformly more lucrative, according to the BLS. For instance, the bureau reports that computer information systems managers who work in the health care and social assistance sectors earned a mean annual wage of just under $120,000 in 2014; computer support specialists earned a median annual wage of $49,720 that year.
In cases like this, personal research in your local market for the most accurate, up-to-date and complete information should be done. While national salary and employment data can offer valuable insight into market conditions, they do not necessarily correlate directly with local or regional data.
EMR workers possess as broad a range of degrees, training, and professional experience as their various salaries indicate. Many are experienced healthcare providers with associate’s, bachelor’s, or advanced degrees in nursing or health informatics; many others hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees in information technology.
Today’s medical or IT professionals interested in joining the ranks of EMR professionals may want to consider enrolling in one of the graduate level EMR-certificate courses or health informatics degree programs now available at colleges and universities across the country. While many excellent programs exist, the University of South Florida is the only medical school offering a master’s degree or graduate certificate in health informatics, which includes EMR training, in a 100% online environment.
Prospective students seeking EMR education should ensure that their programs of choice include coursework in leadership and communication skills; data entry and conversion; medical terminology and ethics; compliance monitoring; and IT/computer systems technology and applications. Interpersonal intelligence, patience and a solid understanding of the U.S. healthcare infrastructure should also prove useful in the years to come, as they enter the workforce and usher in higher standards of clinical care.