What is a Clinical Data Technician?

Clinical Data TechnicianClinical data technicians are health care professionals who exclusively deal with medical records and health information. These medical technicians process and maintain complex medical databases according to strict legal, administrative and regulatory standards, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They handle patient information in ways that are consistent with the health care industry’s numerical coding system.

Work Duties

First, clinical data technicians are tasked with protecting the security and data integrity of medical records to ensure that privacy and confidentiality is maintained. They review incoming patient admission and discharge documents for accuracy, completeness and compliance with regulations. They also retrieve patient medical records for health care providers as requested and release information to patients and government agencies according to regulations.

Experienced clinical data technicians develop and operate various health record databases, so they regularly collect, categorize and store information. They also resolve conflicting codes and unclear information by consulting with health care providers. They are regularly asked to compile and present complex reports regarding specific conditions and treatments. Thus, they assist with cost, care and process improvement efforts.

Core Competencies

Clinical data technicians must excel at obtaining and verifying information from busy health care providers. They must be comfortable working alone and processing information, such as coding, compiling, calculating and categorizing data. Strong attention to detail is important because they enter, transcribe and maintain digital and paper documentation.

Clinical data technicians are generally tech savvy because they interact with computers and databases all day long. They must stay up-to-date on industry regulations and technological innovations. They must also enjoy communicating with peers and supervisors because many health care providers will request information by email, phone and in person.

Career Path

Clinical data technicians have set career paths. Some start out as clinical or medical lab technicians, so they must earn an accredited associate’s degree that is approved by either two agencies: the American Medical Technologists or American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification. Some clinical technicians earn bachelor’s degree through accredited programs that are hosted by universities or hospital systems.

Some clinical data technicians graduate from IT programs that specialize in medical records and health care technology. All of these programs will prepare students to become certified through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) as Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT).

Academic Courses

Clinical data technicians must accumulate knowledge concerning medical terminology, technology tools, clinical coding and medical operations. Students learn about medical, project and health care management process. Some courses may be taken online, but most schools require on-site clinical projects to successfully graduate. Data management courses will teach students about budgets, billing, querying methods and effective resource planning.

For instance, clinical data management courses cover the fundamental ways of retrieving and maintaining clinical information and databases. Students will explore data quality, collection methods and applicable FDA laws. Medical terminology courses teach the meanings of medical terms and tricks for memorizing words and abbreviations. Health care management courses emphasize problem solving and leadership tools, so they teach students how to set benchmarks, monitor data entries and create organizational strategies.

Related Resource: Software Careers in Health Informatics

Most clinical data technicians who graduate from college will be required to complete a practicum at an approved health care organization.