Electronic medical records, or EMRs, are one of the most significant and innovative applications of information technology to date, and its prevalence radically altered not just the medical community, but the U.S. economy as well.
EMR-certified IT professionals are still needed as healthcare providers work comply with 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. The penalty in 2018 was a 4% reduction in reimbursements.
While the healthcare industry was initially 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 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 13% rate of growth in employment opportunities for medical records and health information technicians from 2016 to 2026.1 This is a much higher rate of growth than the national average of 7% 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 a field where duties and titles can vary greatly, so can the pay. The U.S. Department of Labor has not yet published salary data for specific positions.
BLS reports an average annual wage of just over $44,010 for medical records and health information technicians as of May 2018.2 However, careers on the information technology and systems side are commonly more lucrative, according to the BLS. For instance in 2018, the bureau reports that computer information systems managers earned an average annual wage of $152,860, and computer support specialists earned an average annual wage of $55,050.
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.
Joining the Ranks of EMR-Certified Professionals
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. The medical school at University of South Florida offers 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.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm (visited June 06, 2019).
2 Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a “year-round, full-time” hours figure of 2,080 hours; for those occupations where there is not an hourly wage published, the annual wage has been directly calculated from the reported survey data.