Careers in Health Information Management

What is Health Information Management?  

Health information management is a field in which professionals obtain, examine, and secure the private medical records of individual patients. Health information management or HIM has been essential to the structure of the healthcare system for almost a century.

In the 1920s, medical professionals realized that documenting the details of their patients’ medical histories was not only highly advantageous for both physicians and patients, HIM made healthcare safer, too. Without it, physicians would have to treat patients without any knowledge of their medical history which includes but is not limited to: accounts listing prescribed medications to prevent dangerous drug interactions, prior treatments and surgical operations, and individual patient risk factors such as allergies, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Since the field of HIM transitioned from a system based on the conventional filing of paper documents to one that electronically maintains patient medical records as digital data, HIM is more important than ever before. Where HIM professionals were once required to master only certain clerical skills such as billing, filing, and administrative organization, the recent high-tech advances in digital data and record keeping have transformed HIM into a field that now integrates the principles of information technology, business, and science.

Known as health information technology or health informatics, the instruments and methods used in HIM are always changing, enhancing, and being improved to not only maximize HIM proficiency, but also the privacy of patients through digital security.

What are the Careers in Health Information Management?

Cancer Registrar

A cancer registrar is a data information specialist that assists cancer programs across the country. Cancer registrars collect a complete history, diagnosis and treatment information for every cancer patient. The information they collect and provide to a cancer care team is invaluable to improving cancer care. A patient could have been treated in two or three different hospitals, and the registrar has to find that information and complete the patient’s story. They provide crucial information to administrators and clinicians to positively impact patient care. They indirectly help cancer patients fight their disease through providing information that helps clinicians to establish a better treatment.

Clinical Documentation Specialist

A clinical documentation specialist or a CDS is registered nurse who is responsible for the management and accurate documentation of any medical services and/or clinical trials that patients receive. Examining medical records to confirm that all recorded material correctly represents the severity and symptoms of each patient’s illness, and the treatment and medications their physicians prescribed, a CDS helps nurses, doctors, medical coders, and other staff members provide patients with their best care. As they review medical documents, a CDS is also responsible for corroborating diagnoses and detecting mistakes such as the absence of a diagnosis.

Data Quality Manager

A data quality manager is an administrative professional with a Bachelor’s degree who is charged with upholding the integrity and credibility of all patient medical data throughout the processes of its collection, filing, and evaluation. Working alongside nurses, doctors, and healthcare administrators, data quality managers not only obtain and examine data, they are also responsible for the development of well-organized databases. Data quality managers streamline the processes in which medical records are both stored and pulled to ensure that physicians and other medical professionals can obtain, communicate, and transfer this information quickly and accurately.

Insurance Claims Analyst

An insurance claims analyst, also known as a medical claims analyst, is a data-keeping professional whose employer is usually an insurance company. Typically holding a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree, insurance claims analysts are responsible for the verification of medical claims to confirm that the amount of compensation the insurance company issues on behalf of patients is not only accurate, but also medically warranted. Insurance claims analysts correspond regularly healthcare providers to corroborate patient medical care and authenticate insurance coverage. They also communicate directly with patients to arrange plans for payment, file appeals, report any denials by the company to reimburse claims, and process refunds.

Health Information Manager

A health information manager is similar to a data quality manager in that they develop and oversee the databases where patients’ medical records are stored. They are also responsible for ensuring that this information can be pulled quickly and efficiently by physicians and other hospital administrators. Unlike a data quality manager, however, health information managers are also responsible for medical coding, billing patients and their insurance companies, and managing reimbursements. Due to legal obligations to preserve medical confidentiality, if a third party such as an insurance company or a separate healthcare facility requests access to a patient’s records, health information managers are charged with the task of confirming the party’s authenticity and that the information is released securely.

Health Data Analyst

A health data analyst is a research and information specialist who collects and analyzes large amounts of health-related data to identify trends and draw conclusions about a variety of generalized or highly specific health problems. As these professionals play a critical role in the field of medical research, they are typically employed in the public sector, working for government agencies, public research facilities, and sometimes privately-operated charity organizations. Part of a health data analyst’s process for identifying health trends is creating charts, graphs, and other presentational forms to visually display the health concerns for a particular population, community, or larger geographical region.

Health Systems Manager

A health systems manager, also referred to as a health services manager, healthcare executive, or healthcare administrator, is responsible for developing, organization, and leading the coordination of a medical facility’s services and systems. While the majority of health systems managers begin their career with a Bachelor’s degree, most usually end up earning the Master’s in healthcare administration at some point in their professional future. Health systems managers supervise a variety of financial activities such as budget spending, approving service expenses, and reporting the facility and its staff members’ income. Some hospitals will hire a single health systems manager to direct all its staff and the facility in its entirety, most, however, hire multiple health systems managers and charge each with their own smaller, specific department.

Medical Auditor

A medical auditor is an administrative professional who examines billing statements, medical coding, patient history records, and insurance claims to confirm that each report is documented according to state and federal government regulations and the standards set by the medical community. Ensuring that these various documents do not contain inaccuracies and errors and correcting any errors that they do find, auditors help prevent healthcare facilities from losing millions of dollars due to avoidable lawsuits and correctional fines. Medical auditors hold a Bachelor’s degree, typically earned in health services, business administration, or more specifically, health administration. In addition to their four-year undergraduate education, auditors must also earn additional certification in medical coding.

Medical Biller

A medical biller is a member of a healthcare facility’s information management team who specializes solely in maintaining billing records, issuing billing statements to patients, and securing reimbursement from patients’ insurance companies. Though they collect data from individual medical records, aside from verifying a patient’s identity with a photo ID and confirming basic information such as their mailing address, phone number, and insurance particulars, medical billers do not procure any other type of confidential information from the patients themselves. Upon the completion each patient’s visit with their physician, nurse practitioner, or psychiatrist, medical billers act as a liaison between the patient’s health insurer and the healthcare facility for which they work.

Medical Coder

Due to the fact that in private practices and small clinics medical coders also perform the responsibilities of a medical biller, the two careers are often conflated even though they are completely different. A medical coder evaluates each patient’s chart to identify and categorize their diagnoses, prescribed medications, and any procedures or treatments they received. Then, based on a national alphanumerical coding system, medical coders then catalog each diagnosis and treatment with its own proper identification code. In order to translate a patient’s chart quickly and efficiently, medical coders must memorize the language that is medical coding and speak it fluently.

Medical Records Administrator

A medical records administrator coordinates and supervises the entire health information staff of a large healthcare facility, usually a hospital or a series of clinics all belonging to the same service provider. Medical records administrators are charged with the task of establishing the daily, step-by-step procedures that members of the health information team are to follow each time they record or retrieve patient records. A serious responsibility, medical record administrators must ensure that any procedure they implement complies with all federal and state confidentiality laws. As an administrative manager, they also conduct performance evaluations for records staff members, advise and/or discipline employees, interview potential new hires, train employees if and once they are hired, and regularly refresh knowledge and protocol for existing staff members.

Medical Transcriptionist

A medical transcriptionist listens to voice recordings of medical reports and transcribes their contents into a written format. For convenience and in order to expedite the process of medical paperwork, doctors, nurse practitioners, and various other healthcare professionals often take notes and make reports using an audio recorder. Requiring no more than an Associate’s degree, medical transcriptionists are capable to decipher the terminology and abbreviations medical professionals use to chart patient information such as discharge paperwork and their medical history. As transcriptionists are also responsible for reviewing and making edits to patient medical reports, they are trained to use software technology specialized for speech recognition.

Nurse Informatics Specialists

A career in nurse informatics is centered around innovating and refining the ways in which medical information is obtained, recorded, managed, and communicated within nursing. The objective of a nursing informatics specialists is to improve upon the accuracy of patient charting while simultaneously expediting the process for nurses. They also work to streamline data storage and retrieval so that nurses may maximize their time spent with patients and consulting with physicians instead of spending their workdays with charts and paperwork. A nursing informatics specialist is also responsible for training nurses to use any new or updated health information software and technology. 

Patient Care Coordinator

A patient care coordinator works closely with patients to ensure that they are provided with the medical care and attention they require. They are also responsible for helping patients to understand their diagnoses, treatment options, medications, and that they properly follow any homecare instructions given by their physicians. Many patient care coordinators are registered nurses, however, this is not a required qualification. They also function as liaisons between health care institutions if a patient’s insurance policy necessitates that they see specific specialists and physicians for certain ailments.

Patient Registrar

Patient registrar is responsible for all tasks a medical facility requires to admit patients. These duties include: obtaining all of a patient’s necessary information upon their arrival, verifying their identity, assisting new patients as they fill out permissions and insurance documents, explaining financial and payment options, communicating with insurance companies to confirm coverage, organizing and overseeing the number of available patient rooms and beds, transferring patients from one hospital department to another, collecting payment, balancing a drawer for patients who pay for services with cash, processing the appropriate discharge paperwork once a physician authorizes a patient’s release.

What is the Outlook for Health Information Management Careers?

The overall job outlook for a career in health information management is projected to increase by 20 percent in the next 8 years, adding a total of 352,200 open positions within the field.

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