So you're interested in a career in healthcare, but you don't think that patient care is right for you? Don't fret—there are many opportunities in the industry that don't involve direct care. If you're particularly interested in technology, exploring health information management jobs could start you on the path to a new career.
Health information management is a rapidly expanding field: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical records and health information technicians is projected to grow 11 percent by 2028—much faster than the 5 percent average for all occupations.
Further Reading: Artificial intelligence in healthcare.
"The current pandemic and the need for protocol and disease registries have already created much more opportunity in the field," explains Jasmine Agnew, Program Chair of the Bachelors of Science Health Information Management program at Western Governors University. "And with the increased use of automated processes and research projects, health information management professionals have the programming and statistical healthcare knowledge to be valuable assets to employers."
Is a health information management job right for you?
The constant evolution of digital technology continues to change how healthcare works, including how specific patient information is gathered, stored, and protected. Electronic medical records, data analysis, and extensive data reporting requirements are all on the rise in the healthcare industry, fueling demand for health information management professionals.
Still, as promising as the field is, you need to find a career that fits you. Exploring health information management makes reinventing your career easy because the jobs are diverse.
"The beauty of a degree in health information management is that there are several qualities that make someone a good fit," says Dr. Stephanie LaPuma, Academic Program Director/Associate Dean for WGU's College of Health Professions. "The health information management role is a combination of business, science, and information technology, which positions these degree holders in an exciting, high-profile, and influential role within the healthcare team."
Health information management jobs are found in many settings: local and private hospitals, outpatient care centers, physician's offices, nursing and residential care facilities, and even the government. And unlike in other technology-based careers, health information management professionals typically interact with a wide spectrum of healthcare team members, though patient contact is minimal.
"You have to be a sound communicator because you're the representative communicating with many cross-functional departments while also protecting your organization's data integrity," Dr. LaPuma says. "These conversations will likely revolve around compliance, data analysis to inform healthcare outcomes related to population health, and medical information that contributes to the quality of patient care."
Because healthcare technology is continuously evolving, you'll also need to stay up to date on the latest data protection regulations and database management trends. But you'll be rewarded for your efforts with a wealth of job opportunities and a competitive salary. Entry-level health information technicians with a bachelor's degree in health information management usually earn about $50,000 a year, Agnew says, and Dr. LaPuma says that leadership roles can pay more than $95,000 a year.
Getting your health information management degree.
One of the best things about earning your health information management degree is that you don't need any experience or education in healthcare. The robust curriculum of WGU's health information management program builds a strong foundation that helps students succeed.
At WGU, the health information management program, which is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM), is a self-paced, competency-based program that lets students immediately apply their knowledge to real-world situations. The program is completed online, which gives students greater flexibility when determining their schedules. Students can often continue working to support their families while earning this degree.
And if you already have an associate's degree in health information management, WGU offers a generous block transfer option. You might be able to transfer as many as 69 credits from another CAHIIM-accredited program.
After graduation, WGU graduates are eligible to sit for Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification. By earning your RHIA certification, you demonstrate to employers that you have a valuable skill set to help them minimize information errors, increase efficiency, reduce cost, and follow regulatory guidelines. Only students with a bachelor's degree or higher can earn this certification. When combined with a degree from WGU, it could make you especially attractive to employers.
A peek at health information management jobs.
Let's look at what you could do with your degree.
If you're interested in a career focused on business and technical skills, becoming a health informaticist might be a great option. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the healthcare industry will add more than 23,000 additional health information jobs by 2028. These positions are mostly found in hospitals, doctor's offices, outpatient clinics, and nursing care facilities.
Health informaticists play a vital role in organizing and analyzing health information to improve patient outcomes. To be successful, you'll need to thoroughly understand information and communications systems, computer technology, and medical terminology. Once you have a few years' experience under your belt, you'll be able to specialize in a field like bioinformatics, public health, or social informatics.
In the United States, medical records must adhere to strict guidelines. Health records managers protect the integrity of those records, following industry trends to improve analysis techniques and storage capabilities and ensuring that maintenance and security procedures are followed. Some managers also supervise health information technicians.
Health records managers usually work in hospitals, clinics, and private doctor's offices, or with health insurance companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of health services managers, which includes health records managers, is expected to increase by 18 percent by 2028. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree, but you can expect to enjoy a salary of just under $100,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Protecting the integrity of patients' medical records is essential. Health information systems auditors develop and implement audit plans for healthcare system applications; analyze organizations' IT processes, business controls, and programs; sniff out and rectify internal information control risks; train audit team members; and prepare audit reports.
Certified information systems auditors are some of the highest-earning health information management professionals. The average salary is more than $110,000 a year, according to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association. Auditors are found across the healthcare industry, but larger organizations, such as hospital systems or governmental entities, might have a greater need for them.
Health information management director.
Health information management directors, also called health information management chiefs, mostly work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and mental health facilities. Directors help healthcare providers access and use patient data when and where they need it. Sometimes, they also maintain the integrity of their organization's financial data.
In addition, health information management directors prepare budgets, evaluate employees, analyze clinical and financial data, and work on committees to improve various processes. They also oversee the IT staff to ensure compliance, make sure that information is accurate, and find ways to improve quality.
This isn't an entry-level job; many employers look for candidates with the right combination of education, certifications, and experience to fill these roles. But the pay isn't entry-level, either; Glassdoor estimates that the average salary for health information management directors is north of $108,000 a year.
Ready to learn more?
There's never been a better time to pursue a degree in health information management. The demand for health information professionals will continue to grow as medical science and information technologies advance. You can get ready to make your move into healthcare by developing a comprehensive skill set and the know-how to keep up with current trends and issues.
WGU is ready to help you earn your health information management degree so you can start making a difference for patients and providers. To learn more about WGU's health information management degree program, contact an enrollment counselor today.