5 common settings for an HIM career

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Healthcare professional working at laptopThe management of data is playing an increasingly important role in healthcare. As the ability to collect mass quantities of this data grows, so does the need to protect and leverage the information effectively.

Consequently, use of systems that store and protect this information is also on the rise. The most recent numbers from the ONC reported that in 2015, 96 percent of hospitals were using an EHR system. That’s a significant increase from 2011, when just under 72 percent of hospitals fell into this category, and 2009, when barely 12 percent even had what would pass as a “basic” EHR system.

As more healthcare organizations in a variety of contexts seek to collect, store and analyze data online in EHRs and other systems, there is a growing need for professionals who can manage these databases and perform other data-related tasks to ensure that patient information is used effectively and remains secure.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in HIM, there are a number of settings in which you can work.

1. Hospitals

Perhaps the most traditional workplace for HIM professionals is the hospital. As reported by the ONC, nearly all hospitals are now using EHR systems, which means that most of these organizations also need HIM professionals – or even teams – to ensure that they are managed properly.

HIM departments in hospitals are tasked with a number or responsibilities, including:

  • Medical record processing
  • Information release
  • Coding
  • Information protection

Private practices, ambulatory surgery centers, hospice, mental health centers and other care organizations are also workplace opportunities for HIM professionals that involve similar day-to-day activities. In these settings, you may be part of an HIM team or work closely with a health information technology department.

2. Government agencies

In addition to private organizations, government-funded agencies and programs also offer a number of opportunities for HIM professionals. Through recent legislative mandates and other efforts, the government is making an active push to increase EHR interoperability and other facets of information management across the U.S. en route to improved patient care.

The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service is one example of a national program that is hiring HIM professionals

“The opportunities for officers in the Commissioned Corps are varied, interesting, and above all rewarding,” Rear Admiral Epifanio Elizondo said on the organization’s website. “Officers in the Corps can play a role in making a positive difference in people’s lives by working in rural health, research, with state health agencies, and by participating in emergency response situations like hurricanes, oil spills, flooding, and public health emergencies like the H1N1 pandemic. The opportunity to work in a variety of settings has been most gratifying. Opportunities for personal and professional growth abound in the PHS. I can’t imagine having had as great a career as I’ve had in this service, anywhere else.”

However, the Commissioned Corps is not the only government agencies with opportunities for HIM professionals. Jobs are also available with other public healthcare groups, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

3. Insurance companies

While hospitals and other care groups certainly need to work closely with large amounts of patient information, there are also organizations that are not directly involved in patient care that still need to leverage and analyze this data. Insurance companies are one example. These businesses need to keep track of large quantities of medical information to ensure that billing and coverage is executed properly.

Data is also used by insurance companies to identify trends and potential problems in medical practices. For example, this analysis may find that providers are prescribing an expensive drug in high numbers when an alternative is just as effective. Consequently, these insurance organizations have high data management and analysis needs.

HIM professionals who work to ensure the safety of the protected patient information stored by insurance companies are particularly important in this setting, considering the fact that these companies are frequently targeted by hackers. These organizations are particularly appealing to thieves because of the sheer extent of information that is stored. By hacking an insurance company, these criminals can gain access to millions of social security numbers and other private information. For example, the 2015 hack of Anthem exposed the health information of nearly 80 million people, much of which fell under HIPAA, according to Wired.

4. Healthcare technology companies

You do not necessarily need to be involved in the side of HIM that works with EHRs and other sources of information directly. You could also work on creating these systems, helping to develop the technology that goes into storing and protecting patient data on the side of the manufacturer.

According to a 2016 report  by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the top certified health IT vendors and editions participating in the Medicare EHR incentive program, based on reports by ambulatory healthcare professionals were:

  1. Epic Systems Corporation
  2. Allscripts
  3. eClinicalWorks LLC
  4. NextGen Healthcare
  5. GE Healthcare
  6. Cerner Corporation
  7. athenahealth Inc
  8. Greenway Health LLC
  9. Practice Fusion
  10. McKesson

If you enjoy being on the cutting edge of technology, working for one of the companies that are developing and building these data systems may be a good fit.

5. Consulting firms

According to a 2016 report by KLAS Research, the demand for healthcare consulting services is on the rise. As IT systems in healthcare become more complex, it is increasingly difficult for hospitals and other organizations to implement and manage the technology without outside assistance, particularly if the group does not have its own HIM team in place. If you are the kind of person who enjoys solving a variety of problems in various settings, consultant may be the right choice for your career.

Working as a consultant is one of the most financially advantageous positions in the field of health information management. According to the job and salary website Glassdoor, the average yearly salary of a general informatics consultant is $83,899 in the U.S. However, some professionals in these positions make more than $100,000 a year.

A significant amount of expertise is typically expected if you wish to be hired for one of these positions. Because employers tend to prefer consultants with a higher level of education, a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management or Post-Bacc Certificate in Health Information Management from UIC can give you the HIM knowledge and academic credentials that can help advance your career in this field.

Ready to take the next step in your HIM career in one of these settings? Contact the UIC admissions department today to learn more about pursuing an HIM degree or certificate online.

Recommended reading:

Current trends in the health information management field

The job market post-graduation for HIM careers

Keys to success in the field of health information management