Job Profile: Health Information Manager

A health information manager is tasked with safeguarding their healthcare facility’s data system that electronically stores its patients’ personal information. In addition to preserving storage system integrity, health information managers also verify the accuracy of patient records. By seeing to it that the integrity of the system is up to standard, a health information manager can ensure that vital patient data is kept secure and accurate.

Should the healthcare facility’s patient records ever be compromised, the health information manager will be one of the chief team members in charge of resolving whatever vulnerability made the incident possible in the first place.

Ideally, the work that a health information manager does should minimize the chance at any potential system deficiencies putting patient data at risk could occur in the future.

Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean salary for medical and health service managers was approximately $96,540 in the year 2016, slightly lower than the mean salary of $106,070 reported in the year prior. The exact salary that a health information manager earns will vary depending on the the extent of their skills, their experience, and the budget of the facility that they work for.

Beginning Salary

A health information manager’s starting salary will largely depend on their education. Those with a conventional four-year degree in a related field commonly enter their health information management careers with a starting salary beginning at anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000 a year. With an associate’s degree, the newly-credentialed health information manager can expect to begin their career with a starting salary that falls between approximately $20,000 and $30,000.

Key Responsibilities

Though the specific tasks asked of them can be numerous and diverse depending on the circumstances, when it comes to down to their core responsibilities, health information managers could be described as essentially playing a two-pronged role: securing the integrity of the facility’s patient data system and confirming the accuracy of the information contained therein.

Even if the patients’ data is secure, there’s still crucial need for health information managers to make sure that no entries are missing crucial information or incorrect. Since patient data can be essential for conduction of valuable research for population insight and medical development, a health information manager’s job of maintaining the accuracy of all patient records is crucial to ensure that said research is founded in truth and actionable.

Necessary Skills

To reliably perform the kind of the services demanded of a health information manager, strong organizational skills are essential by default. Even with all of the technological resources that make data storage more convenient, it still takes a discerning human eye to take note of small discrepancies that can’t immediately be picked up by the computer.

Naturally, health information managers should have the right level of technical aptitude to work with the kind of digital storage networks that their facility will be using to store confidential patient data. The manager needs to both maintain the integrity and veracity of patient data while remaining within compliance of all federal regulations regarding electronic patient data storage.

It isn’t necessary for a health information manager to be a technological expert, but passable proficiency and experience that demonstrates the capability manage data systems in a professional setting will be bare minimum responsibilities to deliver the basic services of the job. Additional education requirements will include coursework in basic ethics, financial management, statistics, medicine, the legal aspects of healthcare, and research methods.

Differently specialized health information managers may be assigned a supervisory role over different specific departments built around certain forms of treatment and patient care. Whatever department a health information manager is expected to supervise, they’ll need to have a full understanding of the nature of how said department’s logistics and the sensitive aspects of caring for patients within it.

Degree and Education Requirements

Aspiring health information managers aren’t constrained to a single educational path to be officially credentialed and considered eligible to perform the job, but the nature of their education will often have strong implications for the extent of the work that they’ll be permitted to perform once they have the role.

The bare minimum educational requirement to become certified by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) as a Registered Health Information Manager (RHIA) is to earn a bachelors’s degree. Should a student wish to do so, they may continue their education beyond the bachelor’s degree and earn a master’s degree in health information management as well.

A bachelor’s degree program will most likely require the completion of an independent healthcare issue research project. Master’s degree programs in health information management are similar in the nature of their coursework to bachelor’s programs, but successfully completing them allows master’s degree holders to explore more advanced practice opportunities in fields such as health informatics.

Pros and Cons

The role of a health information manager can be very fulfilling to those with a genuine passion for supporting the development of medical research through patient records. Though they may not always actively conduct research projects themselves, health information managers’ scrutiny of patient records lays the foundation for accurate research to be conducted for the potential benefit of everyone who receives the future refined healthcare services made possible by it.

While health information management is undoubtedly a very fulfilling role for those who want to help support the healthcare industry’s stability and development, the importance of the job’s error-free execution is equal to its value. There is a very real challenge to be faced in the potentially daunting task of keeping all patient records organized while managing a department at the same time.

Health information managers will need to have a strong ability to remain productive, focused and efficient while devoting their attention to multiple high-priority tasks under high pressure.

Getting Started

The first step to working toward a career in health information management is to decide just what variety of healthcare it is that you’re most passionate about supporting. As it’s necessary in many programs to complete a senior independent research project on a health issue of your choice, starting your research on the issue as early as possible is highly advisable.

It’s fine and well to have the right organizational skills to manage data, but coming from a base of legitimate passion for the department that you manage can be an essential part of your ability to bear the rigors of the job.

After deciding on a medicinal focus, consider whether a master’s or bachelor’s would be more practical for reaching the specific position that you’re interested in. While considering your options for bachelor’s degree programs, make a point to also consider the opportunities there are for gaining supervised clinical/administrative experience as an intern.

Future Outlook

In 2014, the BLS projected that the field of medical and health service managers was likely to grow by around 17 percent by the year 2024 – this job growth outlook is a fair bit faster than the average growth rate for most industries.

Public demand for healthcare services isn’t expected to go down at all in the near future, so well-qualified professionals in health information management shouldn’t face much difficulty in finding facilities that can make use of their services.

Summary

The field of health information management is a significant pillar of support for the integrity of patient data records and the value of healthcare research that depends on it. Prospective health information managers can begin preparing for the role by investing honest time into building up their technical proficiency and researching the healthcare issues that they’re most passionate about working on.

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