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Health Information Management Programs

Health Information Management Programs: A Review

Professionals with Health Information Management specializations are more in-demand than ever before. That's a good thing for healthcare.

If you work in healthcare you may be familiar with an emerging degree program that is especially relevant to our industry: Health Information Management.

Health Information Management (HIM) is a field of study that offers specialized technology and business management skills for professionals working in various medical settings.

As healthcare and the way we deliver treatment becomes increasingly digital, there is a growing need for professionals that can leverage the latest technology in health IT.

Colleges and universities all over the country have recognized this trend; there are currently over 100 schools that offer a Health Information Management Bachelor’s program and/or Master’s program.

So, what exactly is Health Information Management? And what does a career path in HIM look like?

We’ll answer those questions, along with a few others, in this blog post. Read on to learn if pursuing a Health Information Management degree would interest you personally, or if your organization would benefit from hiring professionals with these specialized skills.

What is Health Information Management?

Health information management focuses on the intersection of medicine, technology, and business. 

In the modern healthcare environment, those 3 elements have never been more linked and integral to delivering quality treatment. The emergence of HIM programs is an important milestone in the evolution and advancement of patient health that reflects that intersection.

In short, HIM programs teach students how to digitally manage both patient data and organizational data. 

They work with modern technology that connects the clinical/medical, administrative, operational, and financial aspects of a healthcare operation and learn how this complex web of separate elements best works together in one system.

In this way, HIM professionals now play the critical role of a reliable and knowledgeable link between providers, patients, and payers. It’s this interconnected nature of the specialization that teaches individuals how to work in many different healthcare settings. They must be constantly coordinating with clinicians, the billing team, administrators, and the IT department to ensure that all treatment and operational aspects are running smoothly and securely. 

If you think back to 15-20 years ago, medical records were primarily paper-based. It’s been a while, but you should remember the shelves and filing cabinets filled to the brim with overstuffed folders containing patients’ medical history.

Since then, we’ve seen the steady digitization of healthcare. The electronic health record (EHR) played a huge role in getting our industry away from paper and online (or at least on a computer). 

Today, the EHR is a vital technology for providing comprehensive, evidence-based care. 

However, EHR expertise, and familiarity with similar technologies, have generally been limited to the vendor side.

In the traditional order of things, EHR vendors develop software solutions and then treatment providers buy a software platform from the vendor. After the purchase, the EHR vendor trains a provider’s staff on how to use the software and typically provides various software/customer support services.

In the best cases, this process can be very successful and painless for both parties. Ideally, the provider chooses a quality EHR vendor that has experience implementing a new system and comprehensively training staff across the board.

Unfortunately, not every provider  is that lucky when purchasing an EHR software solution. Sigmund Software has been building EHR systems for behavioral health organizations since 2004 – over the years our clients have shared some very poor experiences they’ve had with other vendors in the past.

One of the biggest challenges of an EHR implementation is getting an entire staff acclimated and trained in a brand new system. At Sigmund, we believe that the burden of overcoming that challenge mainly falls on the shoulders of the vendor and its trainers/managers.

However, it’s always helpful when a provider has a technologically savvy individual (or individuals) on their team during a software transition. 

The reality of the healthcare industry, and especially behavioral health spaces, is that many providers do not have an IT expert in the building to provide internal guidance and assistance

That’s why we are excited about the emergence of the health information management degree. HIM programs are now producing highly specialized personnel that can leverage and harness the technology available to healthcare.

By studying the technology that healthcare now relies on to deliver secure and quality treatment, HIM graduates are uniquely qualified to elevate staff performance, and thus patient care. 

As our industry (and related industries) are experiencing an influx of HIM graduates, we expect to see big strides made in care delivery optimization and improved patient outcomes over the next decade.

In fact, the Department of Labor estimates that influx to be an increase of approximately 30,000 HIM jobs by 2029. That’s about an 8% increase, which is much faster growth than the average profession.

Careers in Health Information Management

Health information management programs provide a career path for individuals who want to work in the medical field without providing direct care to patients. In this way, HIM programs have opened the door for talented, business-oriented minds to join and contribute to the healthcare industry in ways that weren’t available in the past. 

With such a specialized and in-demand skill set, there’s a wide range of employment opportunities for individuals with an HIM degree.

What skills can I gain in a Health Information Management program?

As we mentioned earlier, a health information management profession combines business, technology, and medicine in a truly modern way.

Some standard areas of study/skills covered in HIM programs are:

  • Designing and managing patient record databases
  • Maintaining the quality and privacy of health information
  • Analyzing healthcare data, such as compliance metrics, treatment delivery data, operational performance, and financial health
  • Healthcare policy (federal/state regulations, HIPAA standards)
  • Healthcare infrastructure and workflows
  • Health IT (EHRs, software integrations)
  • Healthcare compliance (internal and external)
  • Medical coding
  • Medical billing and collections system

What jobs can I get with a Health Information Management degree?

With these skills, HIM graduates commonly find employment as data analysts, medical billing coders, database managers, or database researchers in a variety of settings, such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Managed and ambulatory care (multi-specialty clinics, physician practices, long-term care, mental health facilities, home health agencies, rehabilitation clinics, etc.)
  • Public health organizations
  • Health IT companies
  • Government agencies
  • Consulting firms
  • Educational institutions
  • Research centers
  • Insurance companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies

Are there different types of HIM Programs?

Many colleges and universities in the United States already offer robust HIM degree programs that teach students the skills listed above. Depending on the institution, students can pursue:

  • BS in Health Information Management
  • BS in Health Informatics and Information Management
  • MS in Health Information Management
  • MS in Health Informatics
  • MS in Health Information Management
Anyone interested in a health information management education should also be aware of the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification. This is a special certification administered by the American Health Information Management Association in the United States (CAHIIM).
Demand for professionals with an HIM background has never been higher. An RHIA certification is a way for individuals to distinguish themselves in a field that proves to only become more competitive.
There are a variety of ways an individual can become eligible to take the RHIA exam, though the most straightforward option is to successfully complete the baccalaureate-level academic requirements of an HIM degree program accredited by the CAHIIM.  

Sigmund Software's HIM Scholarship

Does a health information management degree sound like a good fit for you or someone you know? If so, be sure to check out Sigmund’s annual Health Information Management Scholarship!

Each year, we award a qualified applicant a $2,500 academic scholarship to assist with educational costs such as tuition and books.

We are so proud and excited to support individuals who are pursuing the knowledge and skills that will contribute to the healthcare industry’s informatization evolution!