Is a Career as a Director of Health Information Management Right for Me?

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Director of health management looks at a patient’s electronic medical record on a tablet.The volume of health data is expanding at a breakneck pace, growing at a rate of 48% annually, according to IDC. This data proliferation in the health care sector offers opportunities for improved health care availability and costs, as well as enhanced patient and provider experiences. Ubiquitous data also poses challenges. While there’s an urgent need for knowledgeable health information management professionals who are skilled in data management, data analytics and data science, employers are having difficulty finding such qualified workers, based on the findings in a 2014 report from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market analytics firm.

Professionals seeking a career as a director of health information management will face a changing environment fueled by increased digitization and automation, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). For those pursuing a bachelor’s degree or post-baccalaureate certificate to help advance their career, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Health Information Management (HIM) degree program provides a comprehensive approach to the study of health information management and prepares students with real-world technical skills and knowledge on how to improve patient care and outcomes.

What Is Health Information Management?

Health information management combines three critical practices for today’s evolving health care sector — business, science and information technology — to acquire, analyze and protect patient medical information. A key aim is to help improve health care delivery and patient outcomes. By enabling patients to access and view their health records, they can take a proactive approach to their health care. On a larger scale, the information can be analyzed as a data set to reveal insights on population health changes and medical interventions to improve health outcomes in a specified geographic area.

The culling of health care data can be achieved through various means, including health informatics, which the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) defines as “a science that defines how health information is technically captured, transmitted, and utilized.”

What Does a Director of Health Information Management Do?

Health information management professionals can hold various job titles, including high-level roles, such as a director of health information management. High-level health information management professionals typically oversee the design of information technology (IT) systems to facilitate health information collection, management and analysis. The type of health information housed in these systems includes patient medical histories, such as symptoms and disease diagnosis.

As technology extends health care beyond hospitals and clinical settings, people expect seamless, secure access to their health information. A key responsibility for a director of health information management is to ensure data accuracy and integrity in electronic health records (EHRs). In the United States, access to personal health care information is seen as a convenience by most, but some are concerned about how a health care provider might use this information, according to a Pew Research survey. A larger concern might be cybersecurity threats; unauthorized data access was the main cause of the breach of 16.5 million health care data records in 2016. As cybersecurity threats evolve, health information management professionals are on the front line of this cyberwar by helping to ensure that only authorized personnel can access the databases.

A director of health information management stays current on health care innovations: Which technologies are disrupting the market? What health information laws have changed? What are the latest data trends? Finding answers to these questions is useful for delivering technology that can enhance the experience for patients and health care professionals. Health information managers work in clinical and administrative settings and often collaborate with physicians, nurses, executive officers and case workers. A director of health information management may supervise the work of medical records and health information technicians.

Skills Every Director of Health Information Should Have

A director of health information management is expected to have a thorough understanding of technology and practices that ensure data accuracy and accessibility, helping to improve efficiency in health care operations. They’re typically skilled in health information systems analysis and design, health care information security, health care IT administration and other areas. And as the industry evolves, a director of health information management must keep track of clinical trends, government regulations and health care management best practices.

Because a director of health information management will interact with physicians, administrators and other health care staff daily, communication skills are essential to the role. An executive at the highest level of a health care organization may turn to a director of health information management for advice on health care technology best practices, health information policies and technology investments. Therefore, presentation skills are a core competency that employers seek out. Similarly, physicians rely on health information, so the ability to listen and understand their needs is useful for building systems that help them ensure proper patient care and deliver better outcomes.

As a problem-solving professional, a director of health information management must be able to think through issues that may arise. Within their purview, a director of health information management identifies key questions to define new problems and solutions.

Leadership skills to manage teams, the ability to set high professional standards, and a desire to champion ethical practices are additional skills employers seek in director of health information management candidates.

Growth Potential and Salary Information

At the time of writing, PayScale reports an average annual salary of $65,927 for health information management directors, while the American Health Information Management Association reports $71,050 for health care informatics professionals with titles that include data integrity analyst, clinical informatics coordinator, project manager, research and development scientist, and director of clinical informatics.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $99,730 in May 2018. In this growing field, candidates with an advanced degree in health administration or a related field, as well as knowledge of health care IT systems, will likely have the best prospects, according to the BLS.

Those interested in exploring how to become a director of health information management can benefit from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Health Information Management (HIM) degree program.

Lead the Future of Health Care IT

Technology is at the core of modern health care, impacting the way health care practitioners do their job and improving access to health information for patients. Working with technology platforms that leverage data is becoming more common at all levels within health care organizations, creating new opportunities for health information management leaders. For example, as EHRs grow in use across the industry, demand for managers with knowledge of health information technology and informatics systems is expected to increase, according to the BLS.

Explore how the University of Illinois at Chicago can get you started down the path to a career in health information management with its Health Information Management (HIM) degree program.

Recommended Readings

Pursuing an Informatics in Health Care Career: The MSHI Curriculum at a Glance

What Is Health Care Data? Examining a Key Concept in Modern Care

Resource Guide for Applying Public Health Informatics to Addiction Treatment


American Health Information Management Association, Salary Snapshot: HIM Professionals in 2016

American Health Information Management Association, What Is Health Information?

Burning Glass Technologies, Health Informatics, 2014

CIO, “How CIOs Can Prepare for Healthcare ‘Data Tsunami’”

HIPAA Journal, Largest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2016

Houston Chronicle, “What Personal Qualifications & Skills Are Required to Be a Health Information Manager?”

PayScale, Master of Science (MS), Health Informatics Degree

Pew Research Center, “Scenario: Health information, Convenience and Security”

University of Illinois at Chicago, Health Information Management

University of San Diego, A Career in Health Care Informatics: The Outlook and Options

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers