Health Information Manager (HIM) Career Guide
A health information manager (HIM) merges different fields and skill sets, including administration, health, IT, and data analysis. This career is well suited to those with technical talents and organizational skills. Here's what you need to know if you want to start down this career path.
A health information manager works almost exclusively with data. They protect and handle patient data of all kinds, including diagnoses, symptoms, test results, medical histories, and procedures. They ensure that the information is accurate, accessible, secure, and of high quality. This position is particularly vital in health institutions with a mix of traditional and digital records.
Despite HIM being defined as a career within itself, you'll likely end up in one of a set of related positions in this field. Below are some of the most common jobs for HIM professionals.
- Medical records technician: Also known as medical coders, health information specialists, and healthcare data analysts, these professionals are tasked with ensuring the correct recording and cataloging of patient health information. They verify records for accuracy and provide secure storage. They also perform regular analysis of database information to find better cost structures and patient care methods. If you have strong organizational skills and pay close attention to detail, this job might be for you.
- Compliance officer: The compliance officer ensures that the health information department plays by the rules. Compliance officers regularly advise middle and upper-level management on whether the health information department follows the rules and guidelines set out by the American Health Information Management Association and federal and state laws governing the security and privacy of health records. They perform frequent audits of the health systems and processes used in the facility.
- Patient information coordinator: Patient information coordinators play the role of educators. These professionals help patients through the process of submitting and managing their health information. Also, they help patients understand what options they have for insurance and providers. Patient coordinators need to be great communicators to thrive in their jobs, and they need in-depth knowledge of both IT and medicine.
- Medical and health services manager: Medical and health services managers are in charge of the day-to-day running of a health institution’s information or records department. They plan, coordinate, and direct record-keeping operations. This job title is more common in larger health facilities, where the health information systems are complex enough to need a dedicated department.
- HIM director: This is an upper-management role, which you can rise to after getting experience in a lower position. HIM directors are in charge of the entire department, including operations and personnel. While the manager runs daily operations, the HIM director regularly collaborates with executives to work out the health information department’s long-term strategies and goals.
- HIM consultant: An HIM consultant is a type of management consultant. They help health companies solve their health problems. They may also advise the company on which medical records management processes and systems to implement.
The above positions can all be considered health information managers (with differences in scope and/or responsibilities).
The exact job description depends on the professional’s job title. However, there are some everyday tasks that most health information managers do. Below are some of these daily duties:
- They implement health information systems and processes to ensure the complete and accurate documentation of medical records.
- They work with various medical staff, including nurses and doctors, to improve the quality and accuracy of patient data.
- They code (or collaborate with coders) to ensure secure and bug-free systems for managing health information.
- They perform regular audits to ensure the health information department, techniques, and processes comply with guidelines set out by the American Health Information Management Association, or AHIMA (as well as federal and state laws).
- Compliance officers also regularly track audits and denials from third-party auditors and insurance companies and find trends in the data.
- Health information specialists organize and analyze health information for better utilization, process improvement, preparing reports, and research purposes.
These are only some of the tasks carried out by health information managers. Depending on the specific sub-field you end up in, you may have more specialized duties.
Employers prefer to hire HIM professionals with both education and experience, especially for senior roles. Furthermore, to succeed at your job, you will need to have a deep understanding of multiple disciplines, such as information technology, medicine, medical law, management, and finance.
To get a job as a health information manager, you will need a bachelor’s degree in health information management. This kind of degree program will help you learn about the combination of healthcare and information and how they work together in the industry. When applying for a degree program in health information management, be sure to check whether it is accredited or not. You can easily do this by searching for the institution on the CAHIIM website.
Since employers are looking for highly skilled and experienced individuals in this field, the more qualifications you have, the better your career prospects. You can even consider pursuing a master’s degree to help you progress. Such a degree can also help you negotiate a higher salary.
With these qualifications, your chances of landing a lucrative position in health information management will increase.
American Health Information Management Association Certification
While it's not strictly expected to have any extra certifications as a health information manager, many employers require candidates to have the Registered Health Information Administrator certification (RHIA). This certification is provided through AHIMA. To qualify for accreditation, you should have completed a CAHIIM-accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree in health information management.
If you want to work in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you will also need to have a license. The conditions differ from state to state. You can find your location's requirements on the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards website.
Health Information Management – B.S.
A program designed for future leaders in HIM:...
A program designed for future leaders in HIM:...
A program designed for future leaders in HIM:
- Time: 60% of grads earned this degree in 36 months or less.
- Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:
- Director of informatics
- HIMS chief
- Information systems auditor
- Outpatient coder
- Health records manager
This CAHIIM-accredited program makes you eligible for the RHIA exam.
No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!
Below is a list of some of the hard (technical) and soft skills you need to succeed as a health information manager:
- Analytical skills: A lot of your work will involve solving technical problems, so you should have an analytical mindset.
- Attention to detail: You will need to look at complex data sets and find specific pieces of information to use for analysis.
- Communication and collaboration skills: Despite sometimes focusing on computer-based work, you will often have to interact with others in your department and with medical professionals.
- Leadership skills: This is especially important if you end up with a team of other professionals working under you.
- Medical coding: Your education will cover this, and you may need it to perform audits and communicate with staff even if you do not code directly.
- Medical law: You will need to know regulations related to handling healthcare data.
As you can see, many of the soft skills required to excel in health information management are general ones that can help you shine in any field. You can develop them by volunteering, doing internships, and doing lots of personal and group projects. The hard skills will come via a good HIM program at an accredited college.
How Much Does a Health Information Manager Make?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for medical and health services managers was $50.13 per hour (or $104,280 per year). The highest earners make up to $195,000 while the lowest make $59,000 per year. The most lucrative employer is the government, with public and private hospitals following closely. The exact amount you might earn depends on several factors, such as education, years of experience, location, and employer.
What Is the Job Outlook for a Health Information Manager?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment in the industry to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029. This is much higher than the national average employment growth rate. As so-called baby boomers age and life expectancy rises, there should be increased demand for quality healthcare services, which will require good record keeping. The growth of technological innovation will also drive demand for IT professionals in all industries, including the health industry.
Where Do Health Information Managers Work?
Health information managers work in different healthcare settings and facilities, including physician's offices, public health institutions, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, psychiatric institutions, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical companies, educational institutions, and government agencies. A health information manager can work in any environment where medical data needs to be collected, organized, stored, and retrieved.