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.
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 work in a variety of different settings and job titles. They 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 pointin 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.
HIM professionals are responsible for the quality, integrity, and protection of patient’s health information, which can include any or all of the following:
Having skilled HIM professionals on staff ensures an organization has the right information on hand when and where it is needed while maintaining the highest standards of data integrity, confidentiality, and security. As technology advances, the role of the HIM professional expands. The HIM professional’s duty is to adapt to new methods of capturing healthcare information, storing that information, and easily accessing it electronically. Their role is important in order to maintain organized and accurate electronic data that allows daily healthcare routines to carry on smoothly with the new technological advancements.
Health information technology (HIT) refers to the framework used to manage health information, and the exchange of health information in a digital format. Professionals who work in HIT are focused on the technical side of managing health information, working with software and hardware used to manage and store patient data. HIT professionals are usually from information technology backgrounds, and provide support for EHRs and other systems HIM professionals use to secure health information. As technology advances, HIT professionals are necessary to ensure the electronic data HIM professionals manage is maintained and exchanged accurately and efficiently
Health Informatics (HI) is a science that defines how health information is technically captured, transmitted, and utilized. Health informatics focuses on information systems, informatics principles, and information technology as it is applied to the continuum of healthcare delivery. It is an integrated discipline with specialty domains that include management science, management engineering principles, healthcare delivery and public health, patient safety, information science and computer technology. Health informatics programs demonstrate uniqueness by offering varied options for practice or research focus.
There are four major focus research areas in informatics education reflecting various disciplines:
By studying health information, students will acquire a versatile yet focused skill set incorporating clinical, information technology, leadership, and management skills. Health information professionals use their knowledge of information technology and records management to form the link between clinicians, administrators, technology designers, and information technology professionals.
Constantly evolving regulations and technologies allow for lifelong learning and continued professional development. As healthcare advances, health information provides the patient data needed to successfully navigate the changes. As a result, health information professionals can expect to be in high demand as the health sector continues to expand. Demand is on the rise at all levels of education and credentialing. There are approximately 12,000 to 50,000 new jobs anticipated by 2017, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites medical records and health information technicians as one of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the US.
On top of strong job prospects, competitive salaries also await graduates. 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.
Industries with an increased demand for health information professionals include academic institutions, consulting agencies, government agencies, and healthcare software companies. As health information technology (HIT) becomes more prevalent, health information practitioners will continue to be critical components of the electronic health record (EHR) workforce. According to the US Department of Labor, HIT will grow to encompass new support positions, including mobile support adoption positions, public health informatics, implementation support specialists, and information management redesign specialists.
A career in HIM is right for you if you:
HIM programs incorporate the disciplines of medicine, management, finance, information technology, and law into one curriculum. Because of this unique mixture, HIM graduates can choose from a variety of work settings across an array of healthcare environments.
Health information students receive academic preparations that prepare them for a large number of health information careers following graduation. Members of AHIMA hold positions in over 40 job categories, and more than 200 job titles. Hear from a student and a couple of recent graduates who are starting out in their career.
Inessa Moss, a senior HIM student at the University of Illinois Chicago, says HIM students develop a very specific knowledge that sets them apart from other working professionals. The HIM field is so broad that people with all types of personalities could find themselves in HIM positions."
It's not an easy degree," Moss said. "You actually have to work really hard for it, but they make you learn and it definitely changed my life."
The "behind-the scenes" aspect of HIM is what Ashly Stone, RHIA says interested her about the HIM industry. Ashly says working with health information means she never has the same day at work twice, and she learns something new every day.
When Amar Patel, RHIA started college, he knew he wanted to go into a career that involved healthcare and business. He had knowledge about medical records, but he didn't know there was an actual degree for health information. After speaking with the program director at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and doing research into the field, Patel chose to pursue a career in HIM.