Health Information Management: Protecting Patients by Protecting Their Data
By Gina Wynn
If you are passionate about helping others but don’t see yourself in a frontline healthcare role treating patients, administering injections, etc., you may be suited for an allied health profession. Allied health workers are specially trained professionals who aren’t doctors, dentists, or nurses. For technophiles, a career in health information management that involves protecting patients by protecting their data may be just what the doctor ordered.
Data collection, analysis, and protection is essential to the healthcare industry. Whenever you visit a doctor’s office or clinic and provide your medical history and describe your symptoms, increasingly, that information gets recorded electronically. Details of your laboratory tests, X-rays, diagnoses, and treatment plans are also recorded.
Health information managers are responsible for managing that information in computer databases (and in traditional form) while maintaining patient privacy. Doctors depend on being able to access that data when consulting with patients so they can make the right treatment decisions. After personal healthcare data is aggregated, health information managers can analyze it and use it to identify population trends. Doctors can also use that information to help diagnose and treat individual patients.
Skills and Work Environment
To work as a health information management professional, you must have an appreciation for computers and technology and be a stickler for detail. It also helps to have an understanding of how healthcare provider organizations work, including urgent care centers, private physician practices, and large hospital systems, because your work will connect their clinical, operational, and administrative functions.
Health information management professionals typically work 40-hour weeks in an office setting that could be but isn’t always within a healthcare facility. Remote work may be an option for health information management roles and hospitals may even offer evening or night-shift schedules.
In health information management, the more education and experience you have, the more you can earn (unless demand for health information management professionals outpaces the supply). Depending on where you live, pay for a health information manager with an associate degree could range from $20,000 to $30,000 per year. With a bachelor’s degree, a health information manager could make $30,000 to $50,000 annually with the potential of earning $75,000 a year or more after gaining a few years of experience, according to explorehealthcareers.org.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that overall employment of medical records and health information specialists is projected to grow nine percent from 2020 to 2030. This is due to the aging baby boomer generation, expanded health care coverage, and the increasing adaptation of electronic health records, according to the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
Education and Training
For the most growth opportunity in health information management, you should complete two to four years of academic study and earn an associate and eventually a bachelor’s degree. Your studies will include coursework in biomedical sciences, information technology, coding, federal and legal compliance, statistics, data analytics, database management, and more. You can browse programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education on cahiim.org.
To further increase your earning potential and opportunity for advancement, you can also pursue a master’s degree in health information management or health informatics. In addition, you may also take an American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) certification exam to become a registered health information technician or a registered health information administrator.
Healthcare in the Information Age
Regardless of training, health information managers serve as an essential link between patients, physicians, and insurance companies by overseeing the security, quality, accuracy, and accessibility of medical data. They are especially important during the times we live in when information is more abundant and accessible than ever through computers and smartphones. By working to protect healthcare data, health information managers play an integral role in helping to protect patients while maintaining the integrity of the healthcare system overall.
- Why is it important to protect people’s healthcare data?
- Name a few ways our personal data can get compromised.