Health Information Management
With the skills to manage systems, improve processes and integrate technology-based solutions, individuals with an online Master of Science in Information Management (IM) are equipped with the expertise to help fill a gap in health care organizations. Below, we examine the demand for information management skills in the health care field as well as job opportunities and how an IM degree can prepare individuals to excel in and out of health care.
What Is Health Information Management?
As with information management in any sector, health information management involves much more than the data itself; it also includes the broader scope of working with information in a way that serves specific purposes. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) defines health information as “the data related to a person’s medical history, including symptoms, diagnoses, procedures, and outcomes” and health information management as “the practice of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care. It is a combination of business, science, and information technology.”
Demand for Health Information Management
Many factors are contributing to the growing demand for health information management professionals. The massive baby boomer generation is aging, advances in medicine are leading to increased longevity, and regulatory changes are improving access to care. To help meet these demands, the health care industry is increasingly relying on the benefits of technology to address an array of patient care and business needs. In fact, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) cites the integration of information technology as essential to fulfilling the goals of its Triple Aim Initiative as follows:
- Improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction).
- Improving the health of populations.
- Reducing the per capita cost of health care.
The achievement of such goals is possible, in part, by optimizing the functionalities available within a comprehensive and effective health information system that captures and processes data in a manner that supports the Triple Aim. For instance, consider this description from Health Catalyst of the pivotal role of data analytics:
“Achieving the Triple Aim is a complex endeavor that requires health care organizations to understand their past and current performance and to then implement interventions to improve. This entire process requires a strong data foundation and the tools to continuously measure performance. It also requires the ability to combine clinical, financial, administrative, and patient satisfaction data.”
While a robust health information system offers many tools to achieve the goals of the Triple Aim, this does not happen in a vacuum. It is at this intersection of health care and information management that the demand for medical and health services managers will continue to increase: There is a 20 percent predicted rate of growth in health information management jobs through 2026. In a dynamic environment such as this, an individual who has earned an nformation management degree online can hold a competitive edge.
Health Information Management Jobs
There are four major career categories for health information management professionals, which are covered in detail within AHIMA’s Career Map. Each category has a variety of options within entry, mid, advanced and master career levels.
- Coding and revenue cycle. According to the Healthcare Business Management Association (HBMA), revenue cycle management (RCM) is “the administration of financial transactions that result from the medical encounters between a patient and a provider, facility, and/or supplier. These transactions include, without limitation, billing, collections, payer contracting, provider enrollment, coding, data analytics, management, and compliance.”
- Health informatics. AHIMA describes health informatics as “a collaborative activity that involves people, processes, and technologies to produce and use trusted data or better decision-making.”
- Data analytics. AHIMA refers to data analytics as “a crucial operation for health care organizations,” in which practitioners are required to “acquire, manage, analyze, interpret, and transform data into accurate and consistent information in a timely manner. Data analytics professionals are expected to have the knowledge and ability to communicate with individuals and groups at multiple levels, both internally and externally, while balancing the big picture strategic vision with day-to-day details.”
- Information governance. AHIMA defines information governance as “an organization-wide framework for managing information throughout its lifecycle and for supporting the organization’s strategy, operations, regulatory, legal, risk, and environmental requirements.”
AHIMA’s 2016 survey of 5,000 health information management professionals (PDF, 2.5 MB) revealed that more than half of the respondents were working in some aspect of RCM and 25 percent in operations-medical records administration. Specific roles reported within each category included the following:
- Revenue cycle management–coding and billing (53 percent): Coding professional, revenue cycle manager, clinical documentation improvement specialist, health information management revenue cycle auditor, benefits coordinator, collections clerk.
- Operations–medical records administration (25 percent): Health information technician, meaningful use specialist, patient or cancer registrar, health information management clerk or manager, director of health information management.
- Informatics/data analytics (5 percent): Data integrity analyst, clinical informatics coordinator, project manager, research and development scientist, director of clinical informatics.
- Education/communication (7 percent): Health information management professor, health sciences information librarian, ICD-10 educator, program director, department chair.
- Compliance/risk management (7 percent): Credentialing specialist, quality improvement analyst, compliance auditor, privacy officer, information security manager, director of risk management
- IT and infrastructure (3 percent): Implementation support specialist, data quality manager, system analyst, data architect, chief technology officer.
Professionals who have obtained advanced education—such as a Master of Science in Information Management online—and/or have achieved specific health information management credentials typically hold roles of greater responsibility.
Health Information Management Salaries
With regards to health information management salaries, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes health information management in the category of Medical and Health Services Managers and reports a 2018 median annual wage of $99,730, or $47.95 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $182,600.
Job type and location affect health information management salary. According to the BLS, the highest rate of pay is associated with jobs in state, local, and private hospitals ($107,230 median annual wage). Other high-paying industries include the following:
- Government: $110,460
- Outpatient care centers: $92,390
- Offices of physicians: $90,920
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $84,260
Salary rates are also influenced by years of experience and additional training and education. Those with advanced degrees often have more opportunities for advancement and higher pay.
With the potential to benefit from robust rates of job growth and excellent salary ranges, individuals who would like to operate at the intersection of health care and information management as a health care information management professional can expect to reap many rewards in the years ahead.
For those interested in gaining the communications and technical skills to work in the information management field, learn more about earning an online Master of Science in Information Management from Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. This program is designed for individuals interested in improving how organizations manage and use information. Graduates will develop the managerial, analytical, communications and technical skills to excel across industries.
Citation for this content: Syracuse University’s online Master of Science in Information Management program