It’s hard to find a healthcare career that won’t be in demand in the years ahead. Thanks to the increasing medical needs of America’s aging baby-boom generation, hospitals, clinics and home healthcare agencies will be strapped to find adequate staffing.

But what if you can’t cash in on this opportunity because the sight of blood and syringes leaves you squeamish? No problem. Opportunities abound in the “front office” of healthcare operations, where the messiest things you deal with are coffee spills, tangled telephone cords, and the doctors’ handwriting.

Here you will handle a myriad of tasks, like admissions, patient and insurance billing, maintaining and coding records, and transcribing medical data. Hospitals also require custodial help as well as food services personnel.

Record Setting

One of the fastest-growing professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is medical records and health information technician. Job opportunities are expected to grow faster than the average for other professions through 2010 due to the rapid growth in the number of medical tests, treatments and procedures scrutinized by third-party payers, regulators, courts and consumers.

Medical records and health information technicians provide a critical link in delivering quality healthcare by maintaining patients’ medical charts and ensuring all forms are complete and the appropriate paperwork is in hand. They also communicate with nurses and physicians to clarify a diagnosis or to get additional information.

Technicians use their knowledge of disease classifications to assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure. The techs then use specialized software to assign a patient to one of several hundred “diagnosis-related groups,” or DRG’s – which become the basis for how much the hospital will be reimbursed by Medicare or an insurance provider.

Job duties vary with the size of an institution. The larger the operation, the more the staff will specialize in a particular aspect in the process, often working under the direction of a medical records and health information administrator.

While the bulk of this work has traditionally been found at hospitals, the rise of outpatient and off-site care has changed that. Today the greatest job growth is in non-hospital settings: doctor’s offices, nursing homes and home health agencies. To enter this field, you typically need an associate’s degree from a community college that provides training in the field. Coursework usually includes medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, legal aspects of health information, coding, statistics, database management, and computer training. Some adult schools also offer related coursework.

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