What is Health Information Management? The Intersection of Health, Business and Information Technology
Healthcare can be a confusing industry to pin down. There are medical careers, of course, but anyone who starts searching will soon discover careers in technology, business, science and finance—all of which are embedded in the healthcare sector.
This is excellent news for everyone attracted to the job security, competitive salary or high demand that often marks a career in healthcare. Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, adding about 2.3 million new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In fact, healthcare occupations will likely add more jobs than any other occupational group in the coming years. “This projected growth is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare service,” the BLS reports.
Basically, there has never been a better time to pursue a career in healthcare. If you are interested in taking advantage of the explosive growth in healthcare careers, but you don’t see yourself working with patients, you might want to consider a relatively new area of expertise—health information management.
What is health information management? Read on to see your questions answered in this breakdown of the up-and-coming healthcare specialty.
What is health information management, exactly?
Health information management (HIM) is the practice of acquiring, analyzing and protecting digital medical information vital to quality patient care. As technology applications in all sectors of healthcare grow—professionals are needed to help integrate and support them. The role is basically a mashup of business, health science, and information technology (IT).
In the last decade, as hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities have adopted electronic health records (EHRs), healthcare has needed information technology to maintain their database systems as well as envision new technology adaptations.
Sensitive and private patient information, for example, not only needs to be entered and easily located in a massive stream of data—it also needs to be protected, verified for accuracy and constantly updated by medical professionals. This is not a task for a lone IT professional.
When you add systems for medical billing and coding, coordinating insurance claims, the necessary digital classification of injuries and diseases and even platforms that allow patients to schedule appointments and view test results—you have a ton of data to integrate. And these operations need to be coordinated, organized and well managed. This is where HIM comes in.
What do HIM professionals do?
“Health information management professionals have skills and competencies in health data management, information policy, information systems, administrative and clinical workflow,” writes The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
CAHIIM reports that HIM is usually part of the IT team and clinical informatics team to oversee EHRs in an acute care hospital. “The role of HIM in helping medical practices adopt electronic health records is growing and is an ideal skill set for EHR technical assistance.”
In an insurance environment, HIM professionals might manage the medical billing and coding system. They often work on the classification of diseases and treatments to ensure they are standardized for clinical, financial and legal uses in healthcare.
HIM professionals act as a bridge between clinicians, payors, regulators, patients, consumers and technology, according to CAHIIM. This role is needed in many different environments to connect varying systems together for the most efficient, accurate and secure information possible.
Where do HIM professionals work?
Expertise in HIM is pretty versatile when it comes to the settings where it can be applied. Health information management professionals can oversee the healthcare information systems and EHR operations in hospitals or any medical facility. You could also find them working for insurance companies, taking charge of their systems to ensure accurate billing and efficient information exchanges with the patients and providers.
HIM professionals can also find careers in state and local government, especially in public health arenas. Pharmaceutical companies and social service organizations also need these experts to keep their patient information organized and secure.
And that’s only the beginning. Other industries that employ health information professionals include academic institutions, consulting agencies, government agencies and healthcare software companies.
Job prospects and salary for HIM professionals
Now that most healthcare systems depend on technology to function, the demand for HIM professionals is skyrocketing. HIM employment at all levels of education and credentialing is rising, making health information one of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S.
As healthcare advancements continue, health information professionals are expected to remain in high demand to help manage and make use of the growing amount of patient data. The healthcare field as a whole is growing and opening career opportunities across the country as the nation’s largest generation ages.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects careers for HIM professionals to increase at the much-faster-than-average rate of 15 percent through 2026.1 This demand also comes with above-average earning potential, with the reported 2016 median annual salary being $96,540.2
How to become an HIM professional
Health information management involves a blending of several different branches of study. HIM programs incorporate the disciplines of medicine, management, finance, information technology and law into one curriculum. This wide base of knowledge makes HIM graduates useful for many different needs in healthcare.
The best way to pursue a career in health information management is to enroll in an HIM program. A Bachelor's degree in Health Information Management is a great option. There are program offerings at the Associate’s degree and Master’s degree levels as well.
Whatever type of program you prefer, make sure it is accredited in your state. AHIMA and CAHIIM verify accredited programs in HIM to keep tabs on the curriculum students are learning and verify that their knowledge is useful to the field and up to date with current standards.
The future of health information management
This up-and-coming healthcare field will no doubt continue finding new niches in a healthcare system that is constantly trying to integrate new tech. When health information management solutions can save money, improve accuracy and equip medical professionals and patients with the best tools possible—you can see why HIM professionals are in demand.
So what is health information management, really? It’s the new frontier of healthcare efficiency and accuracy. If you’d like to learn more about how Rasmussen College can help prepare you for a career in this fast-growing field, visit the Health Information Management Bachelor’s degree page.
1National Center for O*NET Development. Medical and Health Services Managers. 11-9111.00. Retrieved April 2, 2018, from https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed April 2, 2018] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience unless otherwise noted. Employment conditions in your area may vary.