How to Become a Patient Registration Specialist

Mar 10, 2020

Learn how to become a patient registration specialist. Research the job description and the education requirements, and find out how to start a career in patient registration.

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Should I Become a Patient Registration Specialist?

Degree Level None; post-secondary education helpful
Degree Field(s) Patient registration or health information technology
Experience 1-2 years in a busy medical office setting; some employers may provide on-the-job training
Key Skills Strong customer service, communication, and organizational skills; knowledge of medical terminology and various health insurances; type at least 30 words per minute
Salary $44,010 (2018 average for medical records technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Patient registration specialists, sometimes known as patient registration representatives, utilize both clerical and health care skills to streamline the admissions process and keep it organized. They gather medical, financial and insurance information from patients; accurately enter data; handle admissions; and process transfers and discharges. They may also oversee hospital bed allotment and bed management.

Many work in emergency rooms, where the environment can get fairly hectic. Other work sites for patient registration specialists include admissions department of hospitals, outpatient facilities, clinics and laboratories. Overnight shifts are required for some of these specialists, depending on the work setting. These professionals typically work full-time in an office setting. So how much money do these professionals make? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for medical records technicians, including patient registration specialists, was $44,010 as of May 2018.

Now let's take a look at the steps needed to become a patient registration specialist.

Step 1: Complete Postsecondary Training

A career in this field generally requires some postsecondary training. So aspiring patient registration specialists may choose to earn a certificate in patient registration or health information technology. These programs provide the training and skills necessary to become successful in the field and may improve job prospects. Some courses often included in these programs are medical terminology, coding for medical offices and health care statistics.

While a certificate may suffice, it's wise to consider an associate's degree program in health information management or health information technology. This can provide aspiring patient registration specialists with additional opportunities to learn job-related skills, such as data management, medical office supervision and reimbursement methods. And an associate's degree is a requirement for certain voluntary certifications in this career field, which can be attractive to potential employers. So, look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.

No matter which postsecondary program you choose, be sure to use your academic career to sharpen your communication, organizational and typing skills, which are essential for success in this line of work. You may do so by taking electives in computer and public communications.

Step 2: Gain Experience and On-the-Job Training

Most patient registration specialist positions require applicants to have at least 1-2 years of work experience. Working in a medical office, hospital or other health-related setting helps prospective patient registration specialists acquire relevant work experience. Alternatively, some employers provide on-the-job training.

Here's a tip for success: Take the time to learn medical terminology and understand various health insurance plans while working. While gaining relevant work experience, individuals should make it a point to learn medical terminology and learn about different health insurance plans. Both are extremely important when it comes to securing a job in patient registration.

Step 3: Advance to Patient Registration Specialist

Once individuals have acquired enough work experience, they may choose to apply for patient registration specialist positions in hospitals, physicians' offices and medical clinics. Those who have successfully completed on-the-job training may be able to secure patient registration specialist positions as soon as their training is complete.

Step 4: Consider Certification

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, certification for patient registration specialists is voluntary, but most employers prefer it. Those who've earned an associate's degree through an accredited health information management program are eligible to earn the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential through the American Health Management Information Association (AHIMA). This certification must be renewed every two years, and renewal requires 20 continuing education units.

In fact, whether or not you choose to earn certification, it's important to continue your education throughout your career to keep up to date on the latest software, new insurance rules and current health care policies.

To become a patient registration specialist, you generally need a certificate or degree relevant to the field and 1-2 years of experience, and certification may be beneficial.

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