During my discussions with employees, the topic of health information careers comes up in one of two ways. Either the employee is asking about medical billing and coding or they want to work in healthcare but are unsure of a path without direct patient care. The majority of my advisees are unaware of just how vast this field is. It includes information governance or security, a tech route called informatics, and data analytics. This career path has multiple access points ranging from entry-level certification to a master’s degree.
Health Information Management (HIM) career paths can include basic medical coding, transcription, confidentiality of records, proper release of information, and supporting hospital staff with accurate and complete information.
Informatics is the organization and security of health information using information technology. Employees who wish to pursue this area need IT skills and a basic understanding of medical terminology and healthcare privacy (HIPAA). This is often an area I see people transition into. It’s a great option for a career pivot.
Job titles for those starting in the field can include medical billers, patient registrars, and release of information specialists, to name a few. Typically, minimal training is required but excellent interpersonal skills and attention to detail is necessary. Entry positions at this level can also require knowledge of medical terminology, HIPAA training, or entry-level medical billing certification. Many community colleges offer certificates in medical billing and coding that provide the training needed to pass the CCA. AHIMA also provides self-study training. If you are planning to seek assistance from your employer to help with costs, be sure the policy covers undergraduate certificates or, if taking a course through AHIMA, certifications. Information on the CCA can be found at Certified Coding Associate (CCA) | AHIMA.
Most employees at this level are found in billing and coding positions. An associate degree in Health Information Technology/Management can qualify you for the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) | AHIMA credential required for many positions on this tier. Typically, RHIT’s work in hospitals, physician’s offices, or nursing homes, but you can also find them in insurance firms and law offices. The RHIT, with some additional training, can also allow you to work as a Cancer Registrar. To qualify, you’ll need to complete a CAHIIM approved program. A list is available at Program Directory (cahiim.org). You can search by state and for online options. For cost effective programs, you may wish to look at community colleges.
Transcription is another area to consider, and entry can be with just a few courses. You would be required to transcribe dictation from providers accurately, so typically employers are looking for good writing skills, medical terminology, and anatomy and physiology courses.
A bachelor’s degree in Health Information Technology/Management or a bachelor’s in another discipline plus an associate in HIM/HIT can qualify you for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) | AHIMA. Managers and Trainers are found at this level, so personnel and financial management skills are necessary. Many compliance managers require this level of education, at minimum. One path is a privacy officer, requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with HIPAA and knowledge of privacy laws. They oversee the privacy of protected information, ensure state and federal laws are adhered to, and complete audits to ensure compliance.
Many informatics positions start with a bachelor’s degree. You can enter with IT, informatics, management information systems, and analytics degrees. If you would like to be at the technology end of health information, I would encourage you to look at the AHIMA career guide for the profession at AHIMA - Career Map. You can also view job titles in all levels and areas of the field.
Examples of administrator careers include Coding Compliance Auditors at large inpatient facilities, Vice Presidents of Privacy and Security, Data Management and IT, or Clinical Informatics Officers. Preferred education is often a Master of Healthcare Administration, Healthcare Analytics, Health Informatics, or IT Management to name a few.
As you can see, a HIM career is something that can grow with you or one you can enter at various points along your education path. It can be a great option for career changers with technical skills or patient care providers looking for a less hands-on career path.
If you are interested in the technology-centric portion of this career path, next month I’ll focus solely on healthcare informatics.