How to Become a Director of Medical Records: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become a medical records director. Research the education, career requirements and experience required for starting a career as a medical records director.

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  • 0:05 Medical Records Directors
  • 1:23 Career Requirements
  • 1:53 Career Steps

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Medical Records Directors

Medical records directors, also referred to as health information managers, oversee patient records and ensure files are protected and maintained for medical and legal purposes. As directors, individuals monitor the work of technicians and other medical records personnel and comply with any laws about health information systems. It's also important for medical records directors to stay up-to-date with the advancement in maintaining medical records systems.

Medical records directors work in medical services offices, such as hospitals and private practice doctors' offices. As such, they may be exposed to infectious diseases, although their interaction with patients is limited and so is their risk of infection. Such directors often work as the leader of a team of medical records and health information technicians and must be able to communicate well both verbally and in writing. They generally work on a full-time basis with some nights or weekend shifts possible for those working in 24-hour care centers, like hospitals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $99,730 for medical and health services managers in May 2018.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (minimum)
Degree Name Health information management
Certification Voluntary; professionals can earn the Registered Health Information Administrator Certification (RHIA) designation
Experience Entry-level work experience is necessary
Key Skills Detail-oriented, very organized, problem-solving skills and communication abilities, must know how to use software and coding computer programs

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); job postings (November 2012).

Career Steps

Let's see what steps need to be taken to become a medical records director.

Step 1: Complete the Prerequisites for a Baccalaureate Program

Most universities offering baccalaureate programs in health information management require candidates to complete approximately two years of prerequisite general education classes as well as courses in college-level algebra, statistics, human anatomy and physiology, basic computer concepts, and social sciences. These courses may be completed in a community college through a two-year associate's degree program in health information management from an institution accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S) in Health Information Management Degree

The B.S. in Health Information Management is a two-year program that builds on the prerequisite coursework, with classes such as health informatics, legal and ethical issues, clinical classification systems, coding, and medical databases. Several of the CAHIIM-accredited bachelor's programs are offered online by distance learning departments of universities. These programs prepare future directors for key areas such as information technology systems, data storage and security, medical law insurance, reimbursement methodologies, and human resources management.

Obtain Registered Health Information Administrator certification (RHIA). Graduates with a B.S. in Health Information Management are eligible to sit for the RHIA certification exam administered by the American Health Information Management Association. Some schools offer a post-baccalaureate certificate in health information management for experienced IT and health care professionals with undergraduate degrees who wish to qualify to take the RHIA.

Step 3: Gain Experience in the Field

According to the BLS, prospective health information managers need to have experience in the field. Opportunities may be available to work as technicians or assistants before earning a managerial position. This is a chance for medical records professionals to gain experience in the field and become familiar with procedures and protocols involved in the health records department.

Step 4: Consider a Master's Degree in Health Information Management

A master's degree can open doors for the position of director of medical records in large hospitals, as well as provide advancement to other managerial and leadership positions. Graduate students take advanced courses in the field and gain additional managerial and leadership skills.

To become a medical records director, you need a B.S. in Health Information Management and experience in the field.

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