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Demand drives rise in electronic medical records jobs

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Health care organizations rely increasingly on their health information management staff to operate electronic record systems spread along networks of hospitals and specialty offices.

Medical record-keeping changed drastically with the advent of hospital-wide computer systems and continues to develop as the management of information in health care expands to include data analysis.

“As electronic health records have flourished and the need for accurate, clean data has grown, organizations have started requiring that workers also know their way around databases,” said Kim Murawski, senior system director of health information management for Harrisburg-based UPMC Pinnacle.

UPMC Pinnacle employs over 130 full-time health information professionals in its eight hospitals in Dauphin, Cumberland, York and Lancaster counties. The hospital system relies on its health information management staff for day-to-day management of medical records. Skills in data analytics also have become a part of the job as hospitals use information to help manage operations on both a hospital and business level.

Murawski said that data collected from the system’s electronic health record is used for a variety of purposes, such as tallying the rates of complications like catheter-induced infections and to analyze patient cost and payments from insurance companies.

In addition to the more traditional skills needed in the field, Murawski said that hospitals are hiring individuals with leadership and project management skills as well as experience in applying health information science. Prior to the electronic record, she said that most of the work that a hospital did with record keeping was clerical.

To understand how to use electronic databases, staff members need to be fluent in the terminology used to speak with regulatory agencies that look at a system’s data.

“We have to be more versed all around with the electronic record,” Murawski said.

A growing field

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that by 2026, medical record and health information technician employment will increase by 13 percent, rising from 206,300 employed technicians to 234,100.

Carolyn Eberly, program coordinator for the health information technology program at York Technical Institute in East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, said the field is attractive to students because of its flexibility.

“Health information technology incorporates medical, management, finance and legal fields,” Eberly said. “They are coming out with a taste of all of that and they can easily fit into the health care field in pretty much any of those capacities.”

According to Eberly, the school also works closely with companies that make the software students will be working with when they are hired in the field. One of the largest in the market, EPIC, a computer system used to manage the medical records of patients, is used both at UPMC Pinnacle and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. Students are trained to be “super users” that know the software inside and out.

“They need to know how to fix any problems and how to answer the questions from health care providers,” Eberly said. “There’s a big demand for there to be people available to answer those questions.”

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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