Allied Health Profession

Health Information Management Professional Spotlight

The Health Information Management (HIM) Professional


What Is an HIM Pr
ofessional?

What is an an HIM professional?

What does an HIM career offer you?

Whom do you work with in the HIM Department?

What can you expect on the job?

What are the working conditions?

Where can you receive training?

What's the typical salary range?

Other resources.


If you have an interest in healthcare and information technology, health information management (HIM) may be the right career choice for you. As one of the fastest growing occupations in one of the fastest growing industries, an HIM career places you right where the expanding arena of healthcare meets the cutting edge of technology.

HIM professionals are experts in the field of patient health information and medical records. HIM professional duties can include operating computer information systems, coding diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement, maintaining quality control of health records, and more. These professionals are also the caretakers and guardians of personal health information—ensuring that confidential patient information is secure and released only according to strict state and federal laws.

 

What Does an HIM Career Offer You?


HIM offers prestige

The HIM professional is an important connection between doctors, patients, insurance providers, and other movers and shakers in the healthcare field. By maintaining, collecting, and analyzing health information, the HIM professional makes an important contribution to the delivery of quality care. Besides working with cutting-edge technology, the job is an ongoing challenge.

HIM offers variety

HIM professionals can choose from multiple career paths.

  • HIM Department director
  • HIM systems manager
  • Information security officer
  • Chief privacy officer
  • Corporate compliance officer
  • Consultant
  • Health data analyst
  • Clinical coding specialist
  • Patient information coordinator
  • Physician practice manager
  • Financial specialist
  • Director of quality management


HIM offers cutting-edge technology

As health data grows in volume and complexity, HIM professionals work more and more with cutting-edge technology for almost all functions of the HIM Department. While at one time all medical records were kept on paper, the process of creating and maintaining health data is constantly becoming more computer-oriented, sophisticated, and high tech. The paper “medical record” may soon be a thing of the past.

HIM offers a dynamic environment

There is no more challenging atmosphere than today’s ever-changing healthcare environment. The more healthcare regulations change and expand, and the more issues such as privacy and computerized records gain center stage, the greater the demand will be for HIM professionals.

Whom Do You Work with in an HIM Department?


Within healthcare facilities, HIM professionals are in the middle of the action. Acting as the institution’s informational hub, the HIM Department staff works closely with doctors, insurance providers and patients.

HIM Department directors most often report to the chief financial officer or the chief information officer, although in smaller facilities, they may report directly to the CEO.

Outside the HIM Department, working with physicians is key, as is working closely with the Billing Department and the IS Department. Close working relationships are maintained with the Quality Assurance, Utilization Review, and Risk Management Departments. HIM professionals also work closely with the Admitting Department to ensure that correct patient information is entered into the hospital’s computer system.

Outside the facility, HIM professionals work with vendors for transcription, coding services and agencies, and accounting/billing offices.

What Can You Expect on the Job?



An HIM professional’s duties are often determined by his or her credentials. AHIMA’s education-based credentials include the RHIA and RHIT.

Registered Health Information Administrators (RHIAs) are trained in the collection, interpretation, and analysis of patient data. They often hold managerial positions related to these functions. In a recent survey, AHIMA found more than half of RHIA respondents were directors, managers, or consultants, with almost 31 percent serving as HIM directors.

Registered Health Information Technicians (RHITs) are trained to ensure the quality of medical records by verifying their completeness, accuracy, and proper entry into computer systems. RHITs often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research. RHITs may serve as cancer registrars or hold a supervisory position.


HIM Professionals Work Everywhere:

  • Hospitals
  • Ambulatory care facilities
  • Physician practices
  • Managed care organizations
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Home care providers
  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Consulting firms
  • Information systems vendor
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Government agencies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Insurance providers
  • Internet-based healthcare companies
  • Accreditation organizations
  • Healthcare research organizations
  • From home, as independent consultants

What Are the Working Conditions?

Most HIM Departments are located close to the action, and HIM professionals generally work in comfortable, high-tech surroundings.

HIM Departments have several major organizational branches. The working environment includes areas for physically handling the record (creating, retrieving, filing, and storing), release of information), transcription, and coding and abstracting. Other areas may include a quality review and utilization review area, microfilming or optical scanning areas, and areas for HIM professionals in associated facilities such as home health, hospice, long-term care and chemical dependence.

Where Can You Receive Training?


HIM professionals must earn either an associate's or baccalaureate degree from an accredited HIM program. These programs are offered at many higher education institutions across the country. For a listing of accredited programs in your area, visit http://www.ahima.org/careers/college_search.cfm.

After graduation, the potential HIM professional must sit for a certification exam for the RHIA and RHIT. (see above).

If you’ve already earned a college degree and possess the prerequisites, you can earn a postgraduate certificate or secondary degree in HIM. For specific details, contact the HIM program in your area. AHIMA also offers mastery level certifications in coding, including the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and Certified Coding Specialist-Physician Based (CCS-P) credentials. Other advanced specialty certifications are currently being considered.


What's the Typical Salary Range?


HIM professionals can look forward to competitive salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites health information technology as one of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the US. More than half of new HIM graduates with bachelor’s degrees start at $30,000 to $50,000. Within five years, one can potentially earn upwards of $50,000 to $75,000. New HIM graduates with associate’s degrees can earn $20,000 to $30,000 annually. AHIMA has compiled the results of a recent member salary and profile survey. Check out the results at http://www.ahima.org/membership/profile/index.html.


Other Resources
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Web site
Joint Healthcare Information Technology Alliance (JHITA)
Healthcareers.com

Last updated: September 2001