Health information management (HIM) specialists ensure that important medical data is available for care providers where and when they need it.  The technology experts also maintain the accuracy, security and privacy of patient data. HIM specialists keep healthcare organizations informed of the latest technological innovations. It is their responsibility to learn about emerging information technology best practices and equipment.
The HIM specialist role is critical for care provider organizations to maintain efficient operations while incorporating new technologies. Health information managers make sure that important medical data is available for care providers. They might also engage consumers and insurers. Furthermore, these professionals manage critical clinical, financial, and legal information by performing such tasks as categorizing services and treatments, classifying diseases, and standardizing in-house medical terms. The work completed by these professionals directly impacts the quality of patient information and care throughout all service touchpoints.
Supporting Medical Services with Information
Health information is any data related to consumers’ medical histories, including their conditions, outcomes, symptoms, and treatments. These records might include information such as:
- Clinical data
- Diagnostic results
- Electronic health records (EHRs)
- Medical imaging
- Physician notes
Care providers commonly review these records as they relate to individual patients, while medical researchers might review large sets of data to evaluate the well-being of a population and develop plans to improve the health of the community. Medical professionals call this process health information management (HIM), a discipline that combines business, science, and technology to improve patient treatment outcomes.
A health information specialist might work in a variety of environments while gathering data from different business units so that all enterprise stakeholders can access the data in the most effective and productive way possible. In essence, HIM specialists care for patients by caring for their information.
HIM technicians understand the operational framework of care provider organizations that range from private practices to massive healthcare networks. Within these organizations, health information management specialists maintain workflows by monitoring and maintaining data such as electronic health records (EHRs) and other medical data. The professionals assume a critical responsibility in ensuring that all EHRs are accurate, complete, and secure.
Making the Grade: Launching a Career as a Health Information Specialist
Prospective health information managers might engage in coursework for two to three years, followed by at least one year of supervised work. Employers typically require health information managers to earn a bachelor’s degree. However, some employers prefer job candidates who have earned master’s degrees.
Before assuming executive responsibilities, employers might require prospective HIM experts to work in an administrative or clinical role. As an example, an employer might require that job candidates have experience as a registered nurse before considering them for an executive post. HIM students may choose from specialties such as:
- Business administration
- General administration
- Medical management
- Public health
Other prospective candidates might pursue broader interests by earning dual degrees in disciplines such as management and healthcare, which combine training in business, health information technology, healthcare organizational structure and medical terms.
In addition to requisite education and work experience, HIM candidates must possess proficient analytical skills to assist care provider organizations in complying with health laws. Job candidates must also possess capable communication skills so that they can express new legal concepts to organizational stakeholders such as boards of directors and executive peers. Due to the sensitive nature of managing health information, HIM job candidates must also demonstrate the ability to manage large amounts of information and work with careful attention to detail.
One Specialty, Many Paths
Depending on the setting, health information managers might hold the title of healthcare administrator or healthcare executive.  When managing group practices, health information managers typically work closely with physicians.
When working for larger organizations, HIM specialists might manage information for the entire facility, a specific clinical unit, or a particular practice group operating in the facility. Despite the setting, HIM experts must assist care providers in adapting to changes in health laws and medical technologies.
Health information managers work to improve organizational performance by streamlining data processes. Administrative duties might include creating employee schedules as well as preparing and monitoring budgets. To facilitate this, they work with other executives to identify organizational objectives and ensure that enterprises remain legally compliant as well as utilize technologies in the best possible ways.
HIM specialists maintain and organize detailed records about metrics such as the number of beds used during specific intervals. They must relay such information to staff members and other administrative executives. This information is also vital when meeting with other organizational stakeholders such as boards of directors and investors.
There’s a Positive Future for Medical Information Experts
On average, health information managers earn nearly $53,000 annually, with some earning up to $5,000 in yearly bonuses.  On the lower end, HIM specialists might earn a little over $30,000 each year, while top earners may take in nearly $80,000 annually.
Location and work experience significantly influence pay rates. On rare occasions, an employer might hire an entry level HIM executive for around $65,000 annually. Despite setting or job responsibilities, demand will endure for these valued health technology professionals.
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