How to Become a Health Information Manager

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Health information management (HIM) is the gathering, analysis and secure handling of patient, financial and medical data, for purposes of improving healthcare outcomes as well as for complying with applicable regulations. It combines a variety of operational and administrative functions and is a cross-disciplinary domain, drawing upon fields including health informatics, health information technology (IT) and business administration.

A health information manager reviews an EHR.

The practice of HIM has changed significantly over time, especially with the rise of electronic health records (EHRs). Today’s HIM professionals ensure that EHRs and other sources of data are kept up to date to support key workflows like medical billing/coding and following up with patients. Health information managers may occupy leadership roles within their organizations and specialize in particular areas like health informatics or revenue cycle management.

Who do health information managers do?

Health information manager is just one possible job title for an HIM professional. Others include document quality coordinator, compliance officer and meaningful use specialist. All of these positions share similar responsibilities related to the efficient and safe management of data within healthcare settings.

Common tasks for a health information management professional include:

  • Supervising recordkeeping teams in the collection, distribution and maintenance of assets such as exam histories, X-rays, lab results and clinical notes
  • Collaborating with stakeholders, including physicians, nurses and administrators, to make sure they can access high-quality documentation as required in their routines
  • Ensuring that all documentation practices for medical records comply with applicable rules and regulations such as HIPAA
  • Staying current with technological advancements in EHRs, to advise on best practices for secure, efficient patient record processing and on EHR system upgrades or migrations
  • Working with medical coders to support accurate coding for reimbursement and periodically reviewing data on payer denials and approvals
  • Analyzing clinical data to help drive process optimization and medical research

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has also emphasized the intersection of HIM professionals’ work with both health information technology and health informatics.

In AHIMA’s definition, health information technology (or HIT) encompasses the technical management of EHR systems and other IT systems. Health informatics is the use of this HIT to support the safe planning, management and delivery of healthcare services.

Where do health information managers work?

A health information manager may work in a variety of locations depending on their role. Common working environments include large hospital systems, long-term care providers, private doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and mental healthcare facilities.

Health information managers usually work on site. Home-based working arrangements may be available with some employers, as the responsibilities of many HIM professional positions can be done with access to the internet and the appropriate documents.

What degree path do health information managers usually follow?

Earning a bachelor’s degree is the common starting point for a career in health information management. However, master’s degrees have become more common, with AHIMA documenting the growth of advanced credentials in the field. Many HIM professionals have earned master’s degrees to improve their expertise with EHRs and to expand their skills as managers, too.

A degree such as the online Healthcare MBA (HCMBA) from the George Washington University (GW) offers comprehensive preparation for multiple HIM professional positions, including health information manager. The GW HCMBA encompasses a versatile combination of a traditional MBA core curriculum, focused on topics such as finance and strategic management, alongside healthcare-specific coursework in domains like patient safety systems and regulatory affairs.

With this degree, it’s possible to pursue not only an entry-level job in the healthcare information management space, but also more advanced roles. AHIMA created a compact chart showing the different promotional pathways for health information managers across four main domains: health information governance, health informatics, coding and revenue cycle and data analytics. Some of the senior-level positions include:

  • HIM systems operations senior director
  • EHR director
  • Chief compliance officer
  • Informatics researcher
  • Vice president of data management
  • Chief technology officer
  • Coding compliance auditor

How much do health information managers make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies health information managers as medical and health services managers. In 2019, individuals with this occupation earned median annual pay of almost $101,000. For comparison, the Economic Policy Institute estimated that the median wage for the entire U.S. was $19.33 per hour in 2019, or about $40,000 per year.

Beyond relatively high compensation, medical and health services managers also have very positive growth prospects. The BLS foresees 18% expansion in total employment for this occupation from 2018 to 2028, which translates to 71,600 new positions over that time span. That projected growth is much faster than the average for all occupations, which is 5%.

A physician looks at messages from an HIM colleague.

In terms of responsibilities, the most similar BLS listing to medical and health services managers is for administrative services managers, who earned median annual pay of $96,940 in 2019 and had forecasted employment growth of 7% through 2028. Computer and information systems managers, a broad category that can also encompass HIM professionals who work with EHR systems and software, had seen higher median annual pay of over $146,000, along with 11% expected employment expansion from 2018 to 2028.

The GW HCMBA can be the start of your path toward a career in health information management. Learn more by visiting the program overview page today.

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Why should we care about value based care? Is A Digital Health Care Revolution Coming?

Sources
Bureau of Labor Statistics | Medical and Health Services Managers
Bureau of Labor Statistics | Administrative Services Managers
Bureau of Labor Statistics | Computer and Information Systems Managers
AHIMA | Career Map
AHIMA | Back to School: Advanced Degrees High on HIM Professionals’ Education Lists
Economic Policy Institute | State of Working America Wages 2019