New data is generated every time a doctor sees a patient, contributing to a rapidly growing volume of digital records that care providers collect every day. Health information management professionals are responsible for handling this vast amount of data. What is health information management? This interdisciplinary field integrates informatics into health care to advance patient care and operations management. Now is the time to learn more about what health information management is, how it is impacting the health care industry, and how a career path in this emerging field offers new challenges and opportunities.
From Information Management to Health Care Information Management
Information management is the process of collecting, storing, managing, and distributing information. Often associated with business intelligence and analytics in the business world, the process plays a critical role in the growth and success of a company. The collections of information, which are stored in databases, are commonly the most valuable assets of a company, especially when skilled information technology (IT) analysts are managing the information and making recommendations regarding application.
In the health care industry, technology is advancing in response to the move away from paper records toward electronic records, as well as the introduction of electronic record management software. Today, electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) are added to databases every day. Paper documents like medical charts and handwritten medical notes are increasingly digitized — sometimes using just an Apple Pencil and an iPad. This important health information must be carefully organized, secured, and analyzed by professionals in health information management.
But what is health information management, exactly? Health information management is the systematic organization of health data for doctors’ offices and medical institutions, such as hospitals and clinics. Health care databases require health IT professionals to run them and informatics professionals to analyze the data within them, with three goals:
● To enable the switch to electronic record keeping
● To refine the way the data is managed
● To produce a greater return on investment due to better information management
Health Information Management: Skills and Tools
Professionals in the field of health information management organize and analyze health care data. To accurately record, store, and assess health data, those working in health information management are typically skilled in statistical analysis, database management, biomedical sciences, and a range of other technical competencies. To succeed in this field of health care, professionals should also excel in logical thinking, communications, and organizational processes.
In clinical settings, professionals in health information management will use an electronic patient record system, which is the digital equivalent of a paper record system. Additional tools for informatics and data analysis may be used depending on the needs of the organization. For example, cybersecurity tools are important to health information management as they provide security for patient data.
Health Information Management: Careers
Health care organizations have a growing need for qualified information managers, a trend that is creating new employment opportunities for professionals in the industry. The following are three common careers:
● Applied informatics professional
● Public health informatics professional
● Chief medical information officer (CMIO), a leadership position that is also known as a chief medical informatics officer
Applied informatics focuses on the practical application of the principles of general informatics in the health care industry. Professionals in this area are responsible for applying informatics procedures and the right technology in a health care setting. They also assist fellow professionals in learning how to use new IT systems. The median salary for a health informatics specialist is about $61,500, according to PayScale.
Public health informatics, as defined by the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII), “empowers disease interventions and prevention — leading to better health of individuals and the community in which they live.” Professionals in this area collect and analyze disease data to predict the future impact of diseases on a population. They will typically work for universities or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rather than hospitals or doctors’ offices.
Highly skilled professionals in health information management may qualify to be the CMIO of a hospital. Candidates for this high-level position must have a strong medical background, with experience in IT and database management. The CMIO oversees operations to ensure that clinical data is stored, analyzed, and applied — chiefly to elevate standards of preventive and accountable care. The average salary of a CMIO increased from $315,000 in 2013 to $372,500 in 2016, according to a survey by Cejka Executive Search and the American Association for Physician Leadership.
Health information management is a growing career path for professionals in health care that offers exciting technological challenges and the potential for a lucrative salary. Such professionals are the gatekeepers of valuable health care data. This data must be properly handled as it contains highly sensitive patient information. The data can be used to protect communities from disease and to ensure the best possible care for patients. Those interested in pursuing a career in health information management may find that a Master of Health Administration degree can help with learning the critical skills needed to protect crucial digital data.
Graduates of Regis College’s online Master of Health Administration program are equipped with the skills to become successful leaders in a variety of health professions. Find more details about courses and future career options on Regis’ MHA program website.