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What is Health Information Management?

Healthcare is not immune to the significant increase of data in this age.  The rapid growth of available health information includes individual’s medical history, results, clinic information and notes. Health information management professionals analyze this data on a macro level to understand how medical intervention can alter outcomes and how business can be adjusted to improve outcomes even further.

Health information management (HIM) requires versatile professionals who can both skillfully blend clinical, operational and administrative roles with more detailed, data-driven initiatives like ensuring information is analyzed with integrity, confidentiality is protected and data is secured.

Careers in Health Information Management

Health information roles will grow alongside technological innovation, as health information managers will need to continuously develop new approaches to capture the data, ensure data storage remains secure and establish user-friendly methods for the information to be accessed – by the correct people, of course. Health information will only grow as people continue to move through the healthcare system.

Within the health information field, professionals can specialize as a medical coder who reviews data and ensures coding, either for conditions or for population health and billing, for accuracy. A cancer registrar focuses specifically on cancer patients, verifying records, assigning classifications and tracking patients over time to understand treatment, survival and recovery. They may also maintain databases of cancer patients. Other titles include director, supervisor, manager, privacy officer, HIM systems analyst, records analyst, scanner and HIM technician.

Daily activities for health information managers may include:

  • Organizing data for clinical databases and registries
  • Tracking patient outcomes to understand quality
  • Examining patient records to ensure data is complete and accurate
  • Upholding patient confidentiality

Health information managers can work in a variety of settings, including legal offices, managed-care facilities, hospitals, doctor’s offices and hospice facilities. Medical records and health information technicians earn an average annual salary of $41,460 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data. Medical and health services managers earned an average annual salary of $109,370.

Required Skills and Education in the Health Information Field

Overall, health information is moving toward becoming a more technical career, and therefore may increasingly require more advanced education, according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). An advanced degree, with an emphasis in health information management, can provide the appropriate basis for pursuing this career path.

Knowledge and skills required for a career in health information management include:

  • Compliance/risk management
  • Communication
  • Data analysis
  • IT/infrastructure
  • Coding
  • Public health understanding
  • Leadership
  • Computer skills
  • Detail-oriented focus

The Future of Health Information Management Careers

With the constant influx of data and dynamic regulation and technology, demand for health information managers is skyrocketing. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical records and health information technicians are among the top 20 fastest growing occupations in the US.

As the population ages, more people will enter the healthcare system for services, and insurance claims will increase accordingly. Continued adoption of electronic health records will also expand information. More health information managers will be needed to manage the influx of information.

Strong job prospects aside, a career in health information management also offers the opportunity to work in the healthcare field – but without any patient contact. Professionals will still need to understand medical terminology and how the human body works in order to code accurately – and their work can still improve treatment for patients, as insights from the overall dataset can help to improve processes. A career in health information also provides the opportunity to work in the medical field without being a clinical practitioner.

Current Trends in Health Information Management

Political and social forces keep the healthcare industry dynamic, and health information managers are a valuable player in navigating changes. Right now, several key trends are changing the industry:

  • Data and classification systems have transformed, but understanding how information is gathered, analyzed and reported to ensure accuracy remains critical. Now past the one year mark for the ICD-10-CM/PCS codes, greater detail is available and productivity is generally thought to be back to normal, with the exception of outpatient procedures, according to the Journal of AHIMA.
  • A growing emphasis on secondary uses for health data has changed the landscape; however, quality and patient safety are key data points.
  • Efforts to cut costs have spurred new approaches to treatment, including new care models, patient-centered homes, and an increased emphasis on partnership between clinicians.
  • Demand for healthcare privacy and security credentials spiked. The rise in cyber crime over the past few years coupled with predictions from experts that healthcare is likely the next target has raised concerns and driven demand for security expertise.

While change is certain in the field of health information management, high demand and the opportunity for continued professional development in the face of change mean the dynamic field is likely to be well worth the challenge.

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