Health Information Management Careers

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Patient records are extremely important in the healthcare field. Whenever a patient is treated, a record is created and results in a documentation of the encounter. This pertains to the documentation of patient symptoms, exam results, x-ray reports, treatment plans and more. Advances in medical record keeping has enabled this information to be stored electronically. There are professionals entrusted with acquiring and maintaining this information and they are referred to as health information management (HIM) professionals.

Health information continues to become more advanced as electronic health records have made the entire system computerized. This means that physicians have the ability to share records in a much more accessible way. However, there is a need to manage that information as well. Health information management professionals use the newest technology to ensure the accuracy, completion and protection of those records.

During this process, HIM professionals use information technology combined with both science and business skills as well. That allows them to play a unique role in the field of medicine. The performance of efficient HIM professionals allows them to play a key role in helping medical facilities carry out their daily operations. Health Information Management professionals can hold various job titles, which include the following:

  • Physician practice manager
  • Electronic health records manager
  • Medical records auditor
  • Medical coder
  • Medical records technician
  • Registered health information technician
  • Insurance claims analyst
  • Electronic health records developer

All of those jobs can take place in a number of work settings. HIM professionals are often found working in hospitals, nursing homes, private physician practices, public health agencies and home health care agencies. The services of an HIM professional is also required at many insurance companies.

Education for a Health Information Management Professional

In order to become a Health Information Management professional, an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in Health Information Management must be attained. Each college has different admissions standards for those looking to enter this field of study. A high school diploma or GED is required when applying, while some colleges will require placement tests or minimum SAT/ACT scores. Each state is responsible for handling the licensing of all its medical professionals, although health information management professionals are not required to obtain a license. Various certifications are also available through a host of associations offering this distinction.

Once enrolled in an HIM program at the college level, students learn about health informatics, health information systems, health data, healthcare management and more. Those who embark on a two-year degree will have different job opportunities from those who earn a four-year degree. For example, a Bachelor’s Degree could earn graduates an eventual position as a department director, consultant, data quality manager, or system manager. Those management positions lead to an increase in pay as HIM professionals with a four-year degree have a higher earning potential.

Those students who complete a four-year degree typically look to attain credentialing as a RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) or RHIA credential. This also requires passing an RHIA exam upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree. Meanwhile, individuals who complete a two-year degree program generally look to obtain credentialing as a RHIT (Registered Health Information Technician). This also requires a passing score on an exam given following graduation.

Salary/Job Outlook

The average salary of a Health Information Manager checks in at $53,438 annually. However, some HIM professionals make more than $73,000 per year. Because of the variety of duties, that pay scale can fluctuate. HIM professionals in a management position have reported making annual salaries over $90,000 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 17% growth among all health services managers over the next seven years. The advances in electronic health records have also caused a surge in HIM jobs. As these health records become more complex, there is a need for more qualified individuals to maintain them. The healthcare industry is booming, which has led to more job openings every year.

Characteristics of a Health Information Management Professional

Health Information Management professionals possess an array of skills and that starts with communication. HIM professionals are required to communicate with several departments and need to be effective in using various forms of communication. Throughout that communication, HIM professionals also need to show themselves as being knowledgeable. That means having a firm understanding of the International Classification of Diseases, diagnostic methods, and more.

The technical side of the job requires a broad understanding of several computer applications. All of these skills must be accompanied by an eye for detail as well. That provides a tremendous advantage when adhering to policies or recognizing the proper use of coding. Ultimately, an HIM professional is responsible for the accuracy and integrity of patient health records. That could be something as simple as a physical exam or something more detailed, like a radiology procedure. This makes HIM professionals very thorough and dependable, particularly since they play such an important role in the overall healthcare process.

HIM professionals can hold a variety of positions and often connect clinical and administrative operations. This enables them to- find work in a lot of different settings. Furthermore, the role of an HIM professional is expanding, along with the growth of technology. This places a tremendous amount of importance on their particular role as HIM professionals must stay updated on the latest technologies and advances. That means an HIM professional is always learning and evolving, with a desire to continually upgrade their overall font of knowledge.

Resources

American Health Information Management Association

The AHIMA offers information about certifications, training programs and much more in the area of health information management.

International Federation of Health Information Management Association

The IFHIMA is a global organization that provides an abundance of resources and information in regards to health information management.

Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association

This journal provides the latest research and academic studies in the field of health information management.