EKG / Cardiac Technician Job Role & Responsibilities

An EKG technician operates the electrocardiogram machine to conduct the vital cardiovascular health test of a patient. The role of an EKG technician may be referred to by many different names. Some of the popular titles include Cardiac Technician, CG Technician (Electrocardiogram Technician), and Cardiopulmonary Technician.

The Jobrole

An EKG Technician is trained to operate the designated medical equipment which diagnoses the health of a person’s cardiovascular system. He attaches electrodes to predefined points on a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes lead to an electrocardiogram machine, from which the EKG Technician takes a reading. This reading is used by a cardiovascular specialist to make initial decisions regarding the cardiovascular health of the patient, and decide a course of treatment, if required.

The Tools of the Trade

The EKG Technician understands the use of various monitors, gadgets and machines to complete his/ her work. Not all the machines are used directly by the EKG Technician. But he/she has a knowledge of these machines, understands their use, and helps the institution in managing these equipment. Let’s take a look at a few important ones:

Cardiac Output Monitoring:
  • Hemodynamic Monitors: Invasive measurement of systemic, pulmonary arterial and venous pressures, and cardiac output
  • Physiological Monitoring and Analysis Systems: Measuring display waveform and numerical data for various parameters such as ECG, respiratory rate, non-invasive and invasive blood pressure etc.
  • Thermodilution Cardiac Output Computers: Thermodilution is a popularly accepted method for measuring the cardiac output
Cardiac Pacemaker Generators:
  • Pacemaker Analyzer: Tests the overall performance of pacemakers
  • Silicone lead end caps: Useful in conducting various pulmonary and cardiovascular tests
  • Ventricular Demand Pacemakers: Settings on a pacemaker to detect ventricle depolarization
Cardiovascular Implants:
  • Caval Filters / Vena Caval Filters: These are implanted by surgeons in a patient to prevent life-threatening pulmonary emboli
Vascular Catheters or Sets:
  • Angiojets: Perform catheter-based procedure for thrombolysis (breaking down potentially life-threatening blood clots)
  • Grollman or Pigtail Catheter: Used for removing arterial clots
  • Rotoblator: A diamond-tipped burr which is inserted inside the body to remove calcified or hardened plaque in the artery walls.
Medical PACS (Picture Archiving Computer Systems)
  • Image Capturing & Transmission: Digital storage and transmission of medical images in DICOM format to minimize need of physical files and storage
  • Image Storage Systems: Archives that store and assist in on-demand retrieval of images
  • Scan Convertors: Convert video / pictures in to a compatible format for computer screen based display.

The role of an EKG Technician is becoming more challenging with the advent and growth of new technology. However, it also makes the role of an EKG Technician increasingly important in healthcare. EKG Technicians who become complacent may face redundancy; while EKG Technicians who keep themselves well-trained and abreast of new developments will have an ever-growing demand of their well-paying skillsets.

Notable Information about Healthcare Public Policies in Connecticut

Medical assistants in Connecticut work with healthcare organizations of all sizes, right from single-doctor clinics to multi-specialty hospitals. While the major area of work for medical assistants is providing or assisting in providing healthcare to the patients, it is important to remain updated about major public policies and updates regarding healthcare.

New government policies are increasing the need for IT in healthcare, and this will change the playfield towards employees with IT skill sets. Let us look at some of significant healthcare public policies and how they are changing the ‘IT in Healthcare Scenario’ in Connecticut:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

This act is being looked anxiously upon by all major stakeholders in the healthcare industry. It is still new, and there is some uncertainty regarding its implementation. Hence it will take some time to assess the actual breadth of implications of the act. However, it is certain that in the coming 5 years, this act will affect all healthcare occupations equally and in a lot of ways.

A significant factor will be how the medical home model and Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) evolve. Both of them will affect healthcare employment in major ways. The increased importance being given to performance and productivity measurements for healthcare providers, will result in increased demand for healthcare professionals with knowledge of health information systems.

Also, the act pushes towards greater centralization of health information systems and higher dependence on medical record keeping. This will increase the role of information technology in healthcare and will require medical assistants to remain updated with internet, software, and computing. Medical assistants must keep themselves updated and take professional training wherever required, to avoid competition from a younger workforce or even redundancy. Adapting to change in the role of technology will be a major highlight of the challenges and opportunities in the healthcare sector.

Policies Promoting The Use of Health Information Technology

Modern computing technologies provide great advantages to efficient management of healthcare. The government has recognized the potential of IT’s role in healthcare, and is promoting the use of health information technology through various act and implementation initiatives.

Health care providers are always eager to enhance efficiency, increase quality, and adhere to ever-dynamic government norms. Hence they have plunged whole heartedly in implementing systems and processes that use the power of health information technology.

The US government has created a favorable atmosphere for health information systems by providing funds and grants to initiate and promote the usage of ‘Interoperable Health Record Systems’. The Connecticut government has taken fancy to the federal government’s initiatives, and has promoted state policies to stimulate health information technology in the region. Some of these initiatives include implementation of Health Information Exchanges and E-Health Connecticut. Initiatives such as the Sustinet strategy for Medicaid customers and state government employees, are in the pipeline.

All these initiatives will continuously increase the need for higher collaboration between health care trainers and health care providers, for providing new skills to the workforce at a rapid rate to support implementation.

Patient-Centered Medical Home model

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has been promoting the Patient-Centered Medical Home model. This too will increase the demand for IT skills and training in the Connecticut healthcare sector.

The model also provides for the jobrole of “Patient Care Coordinators / Navigators.” This role will additionally raise the requirement for competence in care planning, overall coordination, customer management, information management, and patient education.

The Omnibus Disclosure: Crucial for HIPAA Specialists to Understand

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) Omnibus Rule came into force from September 23, 2013; based on the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act’s stringent guidelines for patient data privacy.

The HIPAA Omnibus rule puts the onus on the healthcare organization to analyze and prevent breaches in PHI (Protected Health Information). The healthcare organization will be responsible to pay fines for any breach of patient data security. Apart from higher alertness, this requires upgraded EMR (Electronic Medical Record) software and training to medical personnel.

The fines to be paid for breach of disclosure through non-adherence to HIPAA Omnibus Rule can start at $100 and go up to $50,000 per violation. Even greater fines exist under the rule, if it is proven that the breach was committed willfully and there was an absence of any corrective measure which could have been taken. In this case, the fine can be as high as $150,000.

HIPAA specialists within the industry now have greater responsibility and would play an important role in ensuring correct adherence to the Impermissible Disclosure and Use of Protected Health Information (PHI) as per HIPAA Omnibus Rule.

HIPAA Specialists should consider various factors and run several analysis for the new HIPAA Omnibus compliance. For eg.:
  • PDF or DOC files may be at a higher risk as compared to specialized software with proprietary reading formats.
  • Computer with 24 hour access to the internet may be at higher risk as compared to lesser connected computers.
  • Computers without firewalls or proxy servers can be potential threat for data security breach as compared to secure firewall or proxy configurations.
  • EMR software updates and patches provided by vendor should be immediately installed. In case the vendor has not provided the same, they should be asked about it to ensure that the software is compliant with improved HIPAA Omnibus Rule requirements.
  • EMR access should be allowed to authorized personnel only. Stricter access protocols and encryption should be used for higher compliance and lowering probability of breach. Combination & longer passwords should be used, and there should be a strict policy prohibiting the sharing of computer passwords. Access control can hinder unauthorized access or data security breach to a large extent.
  • Authenticity of patient health records should be verified and made 100% error free. While this will provide for better compliance, it will also help the medical practitioner make better decisions through access to correct data
  • If a healthcare organization does not have an HIPAA specialist, they should hire a trained HIPAA specialist or hire the services of a professional company that provides HIPAA compliance support.

These stringent rules may seem challenging to follow, and can have cost implications in their implementation. However, following the rules will increase patient data security. Analyzing your systems for HIPAA Omnibus Rule compliance will help in plugging security gap, and make your security systems stronger and more reliable.

Medical Assistant Roles and Responsibilities

Medical assistants, by the very nature of their job, are important to the success of a medical institution. This applies to small clinics as well as the larger hospitals and specialized health care centers.

A medical assistant performs important duties in two broad areas related to patient care and management.

The first broad area is – Administrative & Managerial duties.

The medical assistant usually is the first person whom a patient meets, and also the last person whom a patient meets. In other words, the medical assistant is involved in the administrative work related to the organization as well as patient care.

Hence, traditional office tasks performed by medical assistants include:

  • Managing the reception area
  • Welcoming visitors and patients
  • Replying to the phonecalls
  • Keying in relevant data into the computer
  • Receiving and sending mail.

In addition to this, the medical assistant would also handle the tedious statutory paperwork such as

  • Filing insurance forms
  • Helping the other staff in managing patient data and files
  • Ensure integrity of patient information and medical history

The second broad area is – Medical duties.

The medical assistant works alongside the doctor/s in creating the patient’s medical profile by performing tasks such as

  • Drawing blood
  • Sterilization of medical surgical equipment
  • Checking blood pressure and sugar levels
  • Checking and noting other vital signs
  • Other relevant duties

Sometimes, medical assistants may be working in more well-defined roles in specific areas such as eye-care and ophthalmology, cardiac care, pediatric care etc. In such cases, the medical assistant may have additional training relevant to the specific line of medicine or medical treatment. For eg., a medical assistant may be assisting an ophthalmologist or optometrist in doing first-level eyesight & vision tests, using specialized equipment for checking eye pressure, or helping patients learn how to wear, remove, and take care of contact lenses.

With a broad based profile that is important for the smooth functioning of a healthcare setup of almost any size, the career of a medical assistant remains crucial to the industry. This has ensured that medical assistant remains as a career that’s always in demand and showcases a continuous demand-supply gap in favor of employees for the entire current decade.

Medical Assistant Jobs – A Career with Happy Times Ahead

There is a big buzz in America right now about taking up a career as a Medical Assistant. There are many medical assistant training schools that have come up in various states and are providing training programs.

The reason for this popularity is the high rate of employment: 31% as per Bureau of Labor Statistics, for medical assistants in the ongoing decade.

The demand keeps on going higher; making this profession one of the topmost opportunities in the country when it comes to a positive demand-supply gap in favor of the employees.

The specialized knowledge and positive demand-supply gap also lead to good remuneration.

Currently, the average salaries of medical assistants are:

  • $28,280 per annum ($13.87 per hour)
  • Top 10% earn well up to $40,000 per annum & above
  • Lowest 10% make around $20,000 per annum

[Salary figures data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Govt.]

The growth in demand for medical assistants is not a fad. It is supported by important changes in demography, legislature and technology.

Following are the 3 primary drivers of this growth in the demand for medical assistants:

1. The growth of the aging baby-boom population:

As the baby boomers live longer, have money in their pockets well into their greying years, and crave for better health; the demand for preventive medical services is on the rise. Preventive medical services are often provided by physicians, who require more medical assistants for clinical and administrative duties to cope with the growing practice.

Physicians prefer medical assistants for most assisting jobs at their clinic over the costlier alternative – nurses.

2. Growing need for support workers:

Apart from preventive medical services, the need for primary care is growing steadily within the healthcare sector. To fill in this growing need, the need for medical assistants at group practices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities is continuously increasing.

At a primary care centre, medical assistants responsibly carry out both administrative and clinical duties; hence allowing the doctor/s to attend a greater number of patients per day.

3. Technical advancement in administrative duties:

The change to EHR (Electronic Health Records) is gradual but imminent. An increasing number of physicians are shifting to EHR from the earlier paper based records. This requires knowledge of EHR computer software, data security, ability to analyze electronic data, and maintain integrity of the data and healthcare information.

Medical assistants are trained in handling EHR and related information services, hence increasing their employee-utility to a physician.

Fastest Growing Healthcare Job – Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

With an expected unprecedented growth rate of 45.5% between 2010 and 2020, the Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is the fastest growing healthcare job in the US (BLS – Bureau of Labor Statistics). The Diagnostic Medical Sonographer career has also found an honorable mention on the US News List of Best Jobs in 2013.

Attractive Remuneration

Apart from the high growth rate, the salary of a Sonographer has continued to remain high. The median salary as per the BLS is around $ 65,210 per annum ($ 31.63 per hour). The highest salary levels cross the $ 90,000 per annum mark, and the lowest salary also hovers around a decent $ 45,000 per annum.

Additionally, the US News rates the job of a diagnostic medical sonographer as average in flexibility and low on stress; which is an attractive combination in today’s times.

Continued Increase in Demand

The increase in demand for sonographers arises from increased usage of ultrasound technologies, which are highly preferred non-intervention and minimal-risk diagnostic methods in healthcare today.

Their most popular use remains in the area of pregnancy, where sonographers scan the uterus with ultrasound to get clear images of the baby’s prenatal progression, they determine the gender of the baby, and locate any pregnancy-related complications inside the womb.

Apart from pregnancy, the sonographer uses ultrasound to create images of various organs inside the body for efficient diagnosis and medical treatment. Current uses include sonograhpy for cardiac, abdominal and neurological diagnosis.

In fact, sonographers say that diagnostic medical sonography is being used for “everything that doesn’t have a bone and is not full of air”. This one statement encompasses the huge scope of diagnosis through ultrasound sonography.

Skills & Training

Sonographers require good interpersonal skills apart from technical skills. They are usually the first healthcare professionals who an anxious patient meets. From putting the patient at ease, and then positioning him/her physically for the best calibrated ultrasound imaging, requires the sonographer to be calm, patient and friendly; and yet remain authoritative. Such professionalism comes from good soft skills and an internal desire to help people – both of which are required to mature into the higher income bracket as a sonographer.

The technical and interpersonal skills that a sonographer requires can be acquired by attending a structured learning program. Accredited programs should always be preferred as they ensure a high quality learning experience and thorough knowledge, which are required to perform the job duties efficiently. Accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Program is usually a 2-year associate’s degree that covers anatomy, physiology, equipment training, other related medical courses, clinical training, report making, interpersonal skills etc.

Certification Requirements

Certification requirements vary between states, and Connecticut does not require a sonographer to be certified. However, certification is recommended as most employers prefer certified sonographers; and getting certification raises both employability as well as salary.

Certification is obtained by clearing the exams conducted by American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS).