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Get Started in Health Information Management

Get Started in Health Information Management

Wendy J. Meyeroff / Monster Contributing Writer

If you want to work in healthcare but in a nonclinical role, check out the fast-growing health information management (HIM) field.

A local school’s health information technology (HIT) department can provide the necessary education.

“We get a lot of people who want to work in the healthcare field without patient contact,” says Anita Taylor, MEd, RHIA, CCS, chair of the HIT department at Oakton Community College in Illinois. HIM can help fulfill this desire.

Quiz: Is Medical Records Right For You?

1. Do you consider yourself organized and reliable?

I'm always on the ball!
I let a few tasks slide from time to time.

HIM professionals gather, code, manage and maintain patient health information. HIM’s coding aspect is especially critical. HIM pros assign the correct code to each healthcare procedure or diagnosis and must be very familiar with the human body and how it functions, explains Lynda Carlson, MS, MPH, RHIT, program director of the HIT department at Borough of Manhattan Community College. For instance, CT scans and MRIs have different codes, as do compound leg fractures and simple ones. “You need to be able to read a chart and pull information from it,” she explains.

Proper coding ensures that doctors and facilities get reimbursed accurately and in a timely manner. Upper managers analyze this data to improve care and resource use.

Carlson says HIM professionals — who work in settings ranging from hospitals, doctors’ offices, hospice agencies, managed-care organizations and legal offices — must be detail-oriented and “a little bit of a detective” to locate information in patient records. Taylor says that flexibility also helps, because regulations and technology are constantly changing.

Uptick in Salaries

The HIM field is growing rapidly, with jobs for medical records and health information technicians expected to increase 18 percent through 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Find out more about Health Information Technician careers!

Salaries are on the rise, too. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reported that since 2000, the percentage of AHIMA members earning at least $40,000 a year increased nearly 25 percent, while, in the same time frame, nearly 21 percent fewer AHIMA members made less than $30,000 a year. Those with an associate’s degree typically earned $20,000 to $30,000 to start. Those earning four-year degrees began at $30,000 to $50,000 and can make $50,000 to $75,000 in five years, according to AHIMA. A 2008 survey estimated the average annual full-time HIM salary regardless of work settings to be $57,370.

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