Beneath the apparent simplicity of the public-facing healthcare system lies a complex and crucial field: Health Information Management (HIM). This sector plays a pivotal role in ensuring that patient data, including medical history, test results and treatment plans, are accurately recorded, stored and managed.
Whether you’re a patient, a healthcare professional or someone considering a career in the sector, understanding HIM is key to grasping how modern healthcare operates efficiently and effectively.
What Do Health Information Management Professionals Do?
HIM professionals play a pivotal role in healthcare. Dr. Lynn Ward, HIM program director at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), described them as caretakers of medical information. Ward has worked in various roles within HIM, ranging from quality improvement coordinator and HIM manager to her current role as program director. She has also served in several volunteer roles, such as Chair of the AHIMA Council on Excellence in Education.
Dr. Andrea Johnson-Mignott is a clinical faculty member at SNHU, with more than 35 years of combined experience in nursing and HIM. Her experience includes coding, case management, leadership, cancer registry, compliance, curriculum development and educator.
Johnson-Mignott said that the HIM roles encompass a wide range of responsibilities. She emphasized that HIM professionals are not only responsible for managing and safeguarding health information but also for ensuring its completeness, accuracy and protection.
Central to the HIM role is the effective management of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), which are vital for today’s healthcare facilities.
“With the implementation of EHRs, healthcare facilities can better manage the volume of patient information effectively and safely,” Ward said. This means quicker access to your health history, leading to better and more efficient care.
In addition to managing patient records, Johnson-Mignott said, “The HIM professional plays a key role in ensuring interoperability is seamless.” This holistic coordination ensures that all your healthcare providers have the right information at the right time, significantly improving your care quality.
These critical responsibilities and the technical expertise required in HIM have led to its increasing recognition in the wider scientific and technological community. For example, O*Net OnLine, a national occupational database recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, recently began including HIM roles within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sector.
This recognition is significant because it highlights the technical and analytical nature of HIM work. “HIM is a critical component in healthcare analytics and informatics, areas that are seen in the application of STEM to the healthcare industry,” said Ward. This means that as a HIM professional, you’re part of a field recognized for its specialized technical skills and crucial role in healthcare.
Is Health Information Management a Good Career?
There are many reasons why you may be considering an HIM career. Perhaps you have a keen interest in healthcare but are more inclined towards a behind-the-scenes role. An HIM position can offer just that, allowing you to contribute significantly to healthcare without being in the direct line of patient care.
Also, if you have a knack for data analysis and a curiosity about how technology can enhance healthcare delivery, HIM provides a unique intersection of those fields. The HIM field is also growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which projects health information technologists’ and medical registrars’ roles to grow by 16% through 2032.*
Johnson-Mignott said that the growing demand for professionals trained in managing and protecting health data and information may be attributed to advancements in technology and evolving regulations.
Additionally, you don’t need a background in healthcare to get started. Many HIM professionals come from diverse fields, and you can learn a lot of what you need to know through an HIM degree program and on-the-job training.
There’s no specific prerequisite to start studying HIM either, Ward said, but you’ll want a keen eye for detail and an interest in technology. HIM demands a high level of precision, as it involves solving intricate puzzles to ensure every piece of health information is accurately placed.
“A career in HIM can be both stable and rewarding, with potential growth and a tangible impact on healthcare systems,” said Ward. It’s a field where you can make a real difference in improving healthcare delivery.
What Degree is Best for Health Information Management?
If you’re looking to get into the HIM field, a great starting point could be earning an HIM-specific degree. These programs often include experiential learning opportunities, giving you hands-on experience. Here’s a look at the HIM degrees currently offered at SNHU:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Information Management: This undergraduate degree could be right for you if you’re new to the health information field. In this program, you can learn the technology, terminology and professional skills required for a career in HIM. There may also be an opportunity to explore professional healthcare settings to help position you for success in the field.
- Master of Science in Health Information Management: This graduate degree can help prepare you for leadership roles by developing critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills to various leadership and management roles in HIM.
“Our program(s) requires students to synthesize, evaluate and utilize critical thinking skills while utilizing and applying technology through informatics, data analytics and data use,” said Johnson-Mignott.
You can also visit resources like the AHIMA Career Map to understand different roles within HIM and their various educational requirements, which can help provide a clearer picture of where a specific career in HIM may take you.
The Future of Health Information Management
The field of HIM is evolving rapidly, thanks in part to advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI may be able to one day take on routine tasks in HIM, allowing professionals to focus on more complex aspects of healthcare management.”AI is becoming more prevalent in healthcare … providing more time to analyze and code the higher-level visits,” said Johnson-Mignott. This means more efficient healthcare services.
“The integration of AI into the HIM profession has the potential to greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare delivery systems,” said Ward. Imagine a future where your medical records are processed and analyzed faster, leading to quicker and more accurate diagnoses and treatments.
*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.
Nicholas Patterson ’22 is a writer and alumnus of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing. He is currently honing his craft further as he pursues an MFA in Creative Writing from SNHU. Connect with him on LinkedIn.