Health Information Manager – A Day in the Life
As the digital age advances and the distinction between public and private information continues to blur, people may wonder how they can keep their digital health information secure. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a nationwide shift changed the format of health records from paper-based forms to electronic. This shift from analog to electronic health records (EHRs) improved healthcare efficiency outcomes for providers and patients. Being able to quickly access patient data empowers physicians to provide more accurate care and patients to take a proactive role in their health.
Unfortunately, an increase in information accessibility has also resulted in data security breaches. A 2015 article published in Perspectives in Clinical Research by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) profiles numerous examples of compromised health information, including a security breach in which a contractor’s stolen laptop compromised more than 34,000 patient names, social security numbers, and diagnostic information. The digitization of patient data in tandem with the sensitivity of patient information has created a need for a profession that can serve the needs of healthcare providers while adhering to the patient safety regulations required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
So who can the healthcare industry trust to address information security concerns held by patients and providers? The answer is healthcare information managers. Healthcare information technology teams ensure that healthcare providers can access patient health data securely. These teams are led by health information managers: professionals with knowledge of healthcare, information technology, leadership, and business who oversee the storage, security, and accessibility of electronic medical records.
Careers in health information management are keeping pace with other sectors in healthcare. Occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects careers for medical records and health information technicians to grow 11 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is must faster than the national average for all occupations (BLS 2019). While the BLS doesn’t have specific data for health information managers, the related career of medical and health services managers is projected to grow at the even higher rate of 18 percent, and the need for 71,600 new positions is predicted between 2018 and 2028 (BLS 2019).
Health information managers report high career satisfaction and a range of remunerative salaries. Self-reported data from PayScale.com shows the average annual salary for a health information manager is $56,323 (PayScale 2020). More than 100 respondents rated their health information management careers as highly satisfying awarding the career 4.1 out of 5 (PayScale 2020).
The BLS reports the average annual salary for related careers in medical and health services managers as $99,730. (BLS 2019). Salaries vary depending on the cost of living in a particular location and whether a professional has specialized training in records management, HIPAA compliance, and medical coding (Payscale.com 2020).
To become a health information manager, a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in health information management is required. Master’s degrees are increasingly common and considered the minimum educational requirement for certain positions. Aspiring health information managers should seek out educational programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), which typically take two to three years to complete and include a year of supervised practical experience in a healthcare setting. The multidisciplinary nature of health information managers draws a variety of professionals with education and experience in healthcare, business, information technology, accounting, human resources, law, and health information systems.
Read on to learn more about a typical day in the life of a health information manager.
Work Environments of Health Information Managers
There are as many work environments for health information managers as there are types of healthcare facilities. Health information managers work in a variety of settings ranging from physician’s offices, public health institutions, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, public and private hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities. Although their work takes place in healthcare facilities, health information managers work in administrative office settings within a healthcare facility rather than clinical environments. The BLS reports that hospitals are the largest employers of medical and health services managers with 33 percent of the nation’s health information managers working in a state, local, or private hospital (BLS 2019).
It is worth mentioning that the digital nature of health information technicians means that some organizations allow their employees to work remotely from home or at satellite healthcare campuses. This means that health information managers may use distance-based communication to manage teams and ensure that employees adhere to internet security protocols when working with medical records data.
Clinical and Administrative Teams
All healthcare employees regardless of title or experience interact with electronic medical records, which means health information managers provide training and leadership to a wide range of healthcare staff.
In addition to managing teams of health information technicians, health information managers are pivotal points of contact between numerous healthcare stakeholders. They serve as liaisons between senior leadership, medical assistants, nurses, and physicians. They oversee health information accessed by patients, payers, and providers. Health information managers also work with human resources teams and occasionally lead information security training for clinical and administrative healthcare staff.
Typical Daily Responsibilities of Health Information Managers
The health information management director at the University of Wisconsin, Jane Duckert, says that there are no normal days at work. She shared, “That’s what’s so fun and exciting about the HIM field—it’s not the same day after day. Even if you work in a small facility, as a health information manager, you will wear multiple hats.”
Keeping in mind that a typical day can vary widely, here is a list of the responsibilities of health information managers:
- Develop and implement departmental goals and strategic initiatives
- Ensure legal compliance with federal, state, and local regulatory groups
- Hire, train, and manage health information technicians on-site and remotely
- Implement and maintain healthcare efficiency procedures
- Serve on healthcare leadership boards
- Prepare budgets and quarterly financial reports
- Communicate with technical, clinical, and service staff in a healthcare facility
- Maintain security of electronic patient health records
- Stay current on best practices and emerging trends in the health information security industry
Required Skills & Knowledge of HIM Professionals
Health information managers are expected to have unique multidisciplinary skill sets that draw upon aspects of business administration and information technology.
In order to fulfill the interactive and technical roles of this position, a health information manager must have strong interpersonal and technical skills. They must be clear communicators with a variety of employees and effectively lead their staff. The informatics nature of this career requires that health information managers be precision-oriented when handling large sets of data.
Required expertise for health information managers includes:
- Health information security
- Enterprise-level data integrity
- Medical record documentation
- Information processes and systems design
- State and federal privacy practices and laws
- Medical coding
- Written analyses and reporting for internal and external audits
Certification for Health Information Managers
Certification for health information managers is available through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the professional organization that awards the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification.
In order to be eligible to apply for RHIA certification, professionals must prove they have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in health information management or health information technology accredited by CAHIIM. Having RHIA certification demonstrates an individual’s professional competency in managing protected health information with regards to security, transmission, and storage standards. While not all positions require RHIA certification, having certification demonstrates a commitment to the field and can be a useful tool when negotiating salaries for job offers.
For those interested in working in nursing home facilities, all states require health information managers and administrators to have a license. Requirements vary for each state and state-specific requirements can be viewed on the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards website.