Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information managers, organize and manage health information data. They ensure that the information maintains its quality, accuracy, accessibility and security in both paper files and electronic systems. Health Information Management (HIM) is the practice of acquiring, analyzing and protecting digital and traditional medical/patient information to enhance the quality of care. Health Information Technology (HIT) is the framework to manage and exchange medical/patient information in a digital format. HIM professionals operate at the intersection of two of the fastest-growing sectors of our economy – health care services and digital information technology. HIM professionals impact the completeness and quality of care at every touch point. HIM professionals must become masters of clinical processes if caregivers are to have the right information at the right time to deliver the right care. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories. HIM professionals can be found in every patient’s care and many public health settings from physicians’ offices, to hospitals, to pharmacy and insurance companies, to research institutions and on and on. Health information technicians held about 188,600 jobs in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There is no formal requirement for entry to the HIM field. In fact, most enter the profession through employment in health providers’ IT functions. However, advancement is highly reliant on formal education. The entry level health information management degree is an Associate’s Degree (AD) in HIM or HIT. If the AD program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM), the graduate can sit for the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) administered Registered Health Information Technician certification (RHIT) exam. RHIT certification is the gold standard certification for entering the field. Further certifications, specifically Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), require a baccalaureate degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically categorize health information management jobs or health information management careers but incorporates them broadly in Medical and Health Services Managers. They forecast growth for that category to be 15 percent over the period from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the norm, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The demand for the position is expected to continue to grow because of an aging population and advancing information and clinical technologies, which has developed at a dizzying pace the last 10-15 years.
How does it feel to be an HIM professional?
Fueled by an aging population and advancing information and clinical technologies, the field is growing at a dizzying pace. HIM professionals are highly respected in their work setting and they see first-hand how their work improves patient care. At the end of the day, they go home tired but know they made a difference. As highly-skilled technicians, HIM professionals also take great satisfaction in the technological advances they create.
The HIM professional can advance in a myriad of ways both within the IT function and in general operations. Their work experience hones their skills as project managers, an ability that readily leads to operating management or organizational leadership positions.