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What Does a Medical Information Specialist Do?

By T. Briseno
Updated May 17, 2024
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A medical information specialist performs a range of documentation and filing duties related to patient care. Specialists put together and maintain files with patient records and treatment and billing histories. Increasingly, a medical information specialist, also called a medical record or health information technician, is responsible for electronic databases as well as hard copy paper archives and mailings. Those in medical records fields can work at the receiving end, compiling initial data and health information, all the way through to patient release and document storage.

Some records technicians work solely with billing and coding and prepare invoices for patients and insurance providers. Others act as registrars and track treatment regimens and results for medical or pharmaceutical trials and long-term prognosis follow-up for cancer patients, for example. There is little or no patient contact for a medical information specialist, though managing records does serve the patient by ensuring accurate medical history tracking and outcomes and/or proper coding for insurance reimbursement. Those who do work with patients typically should have tact in obtaining personal information often under stressful circumstances, such as when an individual is awaiting care while sick or injured.

Working as a medical information specialist typically involves standard, daytime hours, although extended or urgent-care clinics and hospitals may staff records technicians for all shifts. Doctors offices and insurance companies employ specialists for reception and customer service roles in addition to records management, and some billing and coding professionals work from home while connected to a central employer database. Others, such as registrars, operate computers from mobile carts as they move throughout a wing of a hospital or clinic collecting medical information from patients as they arrive and register.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment options as a medical information specialist are likely to grow well into the 21st century as medical data is increasingly managed electronically. Software and database management systems are called electronic health records (EHR), and the technicians who manage them need specialized computer training as well as mastery of the billing and coding system. Becoming a medical information specialist most often involves getting an associates degree, and hiring preference typically is given to those who go on to achieve Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or Administrator (RHIA) or specialized coding credentials and certification. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)and American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offer information on educational programs and certification.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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