How to Become a Patient Registration Specialist
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.
Do I Want to Be a Patient Registration Specialist?
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 the admissions department of hospitals, outpatient facilities, clinics and laboratories. Overnight shifts are required for some of these specialists, depending on the work setting.
Educational requirements vary from job to job, but a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree may help job seekers stand out among other applicants. Optional professional certifications might be available. The following table highlights the common requirements that employers listed in job postings for patient registration specialists in November 2012:
|Degree Level||No degree required; postsecondary education in patient registration or health information technology may be attractive to employers|
|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 is helpful|
|Computer Skills||Able to type at least 30 words per minute|
|Additional Requirements||Comfortable working in a fast-paced and often stressful environment|
Step 1: Earn a Postsecondary Certificate
Although a postsecondary certificate is not an absolute must, aspiring patient registration specialists who possess a high school diploma or the equivalent may choose to enroll in a postsecondary program in which they can earn a certificate in patient registration or health information technology. These programs provide the training and skills necessary to become successful in the field. Some of the courses that may be included in these programs are medical terminology, coding for medical offices and health care statistics.
- Sharpen skills while enrolled in a postsecondary certificate program. Because patient registration specialists are required to possess strong communication, organizational and typing skills, individuals should work to strengthen those areas while in school. Computer and public communications courses may be beneficial.
- Consider an associate's degree program. An associate's degree program in health information management or health information technology can provide aspiring patient registration specialists with additional opportunities to learn job-related skills such as data management, medical office supervision and reimbursement methods. An associate's degree is a requirement for certain voluntary certifications in this career field, which can be attractive to potential employers. Look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
Step 2: Acquire Work Experience and/or On-the-Job Training
Most patient registration specialist positions require applicants to have at least 1-2 years of previous work experience. Working in a medical office, hospital or other health-related setting helps prospective patient registration specialists acquire relevant work experience that prepares them for their future. Alternatively, some employers provide on-the-job training. Individuals should be on the lookout for those positions and apply for them when possible.
- 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 understand 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: Obtain a Patient Registration Specialist Position
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). RHIT certification must be renewed every two years and requires 20 continuing education units.
- Continue training. Whether or not they choose to earn certification, patient registration specialists must keep up to date on the latest software, new insurance rules and current health care policies.
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