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Career Pathway — Health Information Management (HIM)

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What is HIM?

Health information is the data related to a person's medical history, including symptoms, diagnoses, procedures, and outcomes. Health information records include patient histories, lab results, x-rays, clinical information, and notes. A patient's health information can be viewed individually, to see how a patient's health has changed; it can also be viewed as a part of a larger data set to understand how a population's health has changed and how medical interventions can change health outcomes.

Health information management (HIM) is the practice of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care. It is a combination of business, science, and information technology.

Who is an HIM professional and what do they do?

HIM professionals are highly trained in the latest information management technology applications and understand the workflow in any healthcare provider organization from large hospital systems to the private physician practice. They are vital to the daily operations management of health information and electronic health records (EHRs). They ensure a patient's health information and records are complete, accurate, and protected.

Health information management (HIM) professionals often serve in bridge roles, connecting clinical, operational, and administrative functions. These professionals affect the quality of patient information and patient care at every touch point in the healthcare delivery cycle. HIM professionals work on the classification of diseases and treatments to ensure they are standardized for clinical, financial, and legal uses in healthcare. Health information professionals care for patients by caring for their medical data. More specifically, health information professionals:
  • Review patients' records for timeliness, completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of data
  • Organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries
  • Track patient outcomes for quality assessment
  • Use classification software to assign clinical codes for reimbursement and data analysis
  • Electronically record data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
  • Maintain confidentiality of patients' records

Where are HIM professionals employed?

A variety of different settings, environments, and employers, including hospitals, medical offices, and skilled nursing facilities. Additionally, as health information technology becomes more ubiquitous, places like academic institutions, consulting agencies, government agencies, and healthcare software companies will also become key players.

Why HIM?

Scope of knowledge!
HIM students will acquire a versatile yet focused skill set incorporating clinical, information technology, leadership, and management skills.

Job Outlook!
An aging population requiring more medical services, along with an increasing number of individuals who have access to health insurance because of federal health insurance reform, will lead to more reimbursement claims from insurance companies. Due to factors like these, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of health information technicians will grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024, making it much faster than the average for all occupations. Health information technology (HIT)HIT — framework used to
manage health information
and the exchange of health
information in a digital format
and health informatics (HI)HI — the science that
deals with how health
information is technically
captured, transmitted,
and utilized
will also be key players, leading to opportunities in the technical side of managing health information.

Competitive salary!
More than half of new health information graduates with bachelor's degrees start with salaries in the $30,000 to $50,000 range. By five years out, one can earn upwards of $50,000 to $75,000 annually. Most new health information graduates with associate's degrees jump right in and earn $20,000 to $30,000 annually. These figures are just averages — many professionals report higher salaries.
(Data from AHIMA: http://www.ahima.org/careers/healthinfo )

How do I become an HIM professional?

Education and Certification
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most jobs for HIM professionals require postsecondary education. Some may need an associate's degree, and national certification through AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) is often required. Certifications include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), among others. Once certified, technicians typically must renew their certification regularly and take continuing education courses. You can review the content areas of each certification here.

Ensure that the program you enter is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) in order to make you eligible to sit for the AHIMA professional HIM Certification Exams. You can check the accreditation status of a given program here.

Not sure whether to pursue a certificate or a degree?
Explore your options at AHIMA.org

What will I learn?
HIM programs incorporate the disciplines of medicine, management, finance, information technology, and law into one curriculum. Expect coursework that includes biomedical sciences, legal aspects of health information, coding and management of clinical data, statistics, data analysis, database management, quality improvement methods and computer technology applied to health information systems.

Is a career in HIM right for me?

A career in HIM is right for you if you:
  • See yourself in a career that offers diverse opportunities.
  • Would like to work in health care, but not directly with patients.
  • Have an aptitude for science, but also like management, law, and computers.
  • Enjoy working with professionals: physicians, nurses, lawyers, administrators and executives.
  • Want a career where you can choose to work on your own, with others, or some of both.
  • Are detail-oriented, have high integrity, and possess analytical, interpersonal, and technical skills.
Watch videos of real HIM students and professionals talk about their experiences.
Visit the link above, then click the "Real HIM Stories" tab.

What are some typical HIM job titles?

Coder, Health Information Clerk, Health Information Specialist, Health Information Technician (Health Information Tech), Medical Records Analyst, Medical Records Clerk, Medical Records Coordinator, Medical Records Director, Medical Records Technician (Medical Records Tech), Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)

What level of education is needed for different HIM job titles and how can I move around within the HIM field?

AHIMA Career Mapping: Click here to use this interactive tool.

Learn more about the HIM Credential (Specialty) Hospital Facility Coding.
Want more information? Click here.

Click here for HIM Books on Amazon!

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Information sources:
http://www.ahima.org/careers/healthinfo
http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/Career/33/Health_Information_Manager#Tab=Requirements
http://www.bls.gov/OOH/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-1
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2071.00

Bureau of Labor Statistics Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code: 29-2071.00 - Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

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