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What is HIM? 

First, we need to clarify that health information management (HIM) and health informatics are not synonymous. Health informatics professionals design and develop information systems and processes that improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of care for healthcare applications. The job is more Information Technology intensive as it applies computer technology to clinical processes, outcomes, and health data collection, storage, and reporting. Health information management is the management of personal health information in hospitals or other healthcare organizations. This enables the delivery of quality healthcare to the public through the accumulation, storage and accuracy of patient data.

HIM professionals are educated in the management of information technology applications and understand the workflow in any healthcare provider organization from large hospital systems to the private physician practice. They are vital to the daily operations management of health information and electronic health records (EHRs). They work on the classification of diseases and treatments to ensure the standardization for clinical, financial, and legal uses in healthcare. Health information professionals care for patients by caring for their medical data.

Education Path

You can commence your career path with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. The former may consist of a general program of English composition and mathematics before stepping into the more specific courses. These may entail psychology, medical terminology, pharmacology, and health care delivery systems. Some of the job opportunities with an associate’s degree involve inpatient coding, medical administrative assistant, clinical data analyst, medical billing, and more.

At the bachelor’s level, a typical program will begin with a general education or cores skills that provide students with the ability to succeed in their academic and professional goals. Such a curriculum allows students to gain a perspective through the humanistic, historical, social, and natural scientific (empirical) lenses. Then the program proceeds into coursework directly related to HIM. A short list of courses may include healthcare data management, coding & classifications, pathophysiology, computer platforms, and human resource management.

If you are considering this career, make sure to choose a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). After graduating, many health information management professionals choose to earn their credentials as either a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) by successfully completing a national certification exam. These certifications should enhance your career and embellish your resume. The RHIA requires at least a baccalaureate degree from a CAHIIM accredited school. The RHIT requires only an associate’s degree from an accredited program.

Employment

Once you have earned your degree, there are several work environments from which to choose. These include, but are not limited to, pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies, long-term care facilities, public health settings, physician group practices, consulting firms, and computer systems design firms. The American Health Information Management Association reports that new health information graduates with associate degrees earn $20,000 to $30,000 annually while those with bachelor’s degrees earn between $30,000 and $50,000. With a few years of experience, managers can earn $50,000 to $75,000 annually with top salaries between $80-$100k. PayScale, which derives its data from employee surveys, reports the median income at $66k for HIM Directors. Job location, the type of business, and years of experience will affect compensation.

Those individuals mulling over healthcare as a career may benefit from other DegreeQuery postings related to this field: