An associate's degree is sufficient for an entry-level career in health care data analysis. As working professionals, they'll be expected to present accurate health data utilizing electronic health records (EHR) technology. Some programs feature online study options and practicums. For admission to an HIM program, high school graduates must have completed four years of English, three years each of math and social studies, and two years of science.
A bachelor's or master's degree provides a path to becoming a health information manager. The program curricula are designed to teach students to effectively summarize clinical data. Bachelor's candidates are trained to plan, collect, summarize, analyze, and disseminate patient and clinical data, whether for individuals or populations. Students will participate in internships, research projects, and capstone experiences as they build the capacity for leadership. A high school diploma or the equivalent is needed for admission to a bachelor's program. Master's candidates develop skills in the essential disciplines of health information management. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree for master's program.
- Program Levels: Associate's; bachelor's; master's
- Prerequisites: foundational coursework and high school diploma for associate's and bachelor's programs; bachelor's degree, personal statement, current resume, official transcripts, letters of reference, and GRE and GMAT scores for master's program
- Online Availability: Some associate degree programs are available
- Other Requirements: Internship; supervised practicum; research; capstone project
Associate's Degree in Health Information Management
Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management programs appeal to recent high school graduates, or men and women reentering the workforce or changing their career focus. Graduates find work with physicians' offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, government agencies, and insurance companies. Students planning to earn voluntary certification from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) should be sure to choose an HIM program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Many colleges offer online and on-campus degree options, both include supervised practicums.
Core deficiencies are made up through college courses also satisfying graduation requirements. Other recommended high school courses are anatomy, physiology, intermediate algebra, general business subjects, keyboarding, and an introduction to computers. HIM students must complete general education courses in English composition, communications, humanities, mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, computer basics, and information literacy. They also take classes in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, as well as human anatomy, general pharmacology, and medical terminology. Other courses include:
- Legalities of health care records
- Ambulatory and inpatient coding
- Reimbursements and cancer registry
- Health information resources
- HIM systems
- Clinical abstracts and statistical data
Bachelor's Degree in Health Information Management
Colleges frequently offer this as a health informatics and health information management (HIHIM) program. Aspiring health information managers complete a range of assignments, including designing, implementing, and maintaining data systems. They also learn to determine relevant policies and budgets, tend to hiring and in-service education, and assist with research. Schools give preference to those who already hold an associate degree from a CAHIIM-credited school, in addition to an RHIT credential.
Support courses for programs include human anatomy, disease concepts, health statistics, introduction to healthcare systems and data, electronic health records, and organizational theory and management. Other classes include:
- Health informatics and clinical issues
- Human resource and HIHIM systems management
- Elementary statistics, privacy, and security management
- Data analysis and business applications
- Departmental finance and budget and managing EHR systems
- Ethics, law, and medicine
Master in Health Information Management
While dedicated to healthcare, master's programs in health information management also appeal to students with backgrounds in clinical practice, IT, laboratory science, and management. As a result, programs provide opportunities not only for healthcare immersion, but also for interdisciplinary discussion and application. Applicants are asked to submit a personal statement of intent, current resume, official transcripts, letters of reference, and GRE and GMAT scores.
Programs incorporate internships, research projects, practicums, electives, lectures, seminars, and capstone projects. Courses include:
- Analysis and design of systems
- Communications and networking
- Medical informatics and electronic health records
- Introduction to biostatistics and healthcare product management
- Telemedicine and evidence in healthcare
- Health economics, data mining, and warehousing
Popular Career Options
Health information management (HIM) is concerned with gathering and storing patients' medical histories, symptoms, test results, and treatments. Health information technicians and managers ensure security, accuracy, quality, and accessibility of data while working with physicians, insurance companies, healthcare consulting firms, and other health facilitators. Other opportunities exist in law, pharmaceutical sales, and research.
HIM professionals have portable jobs that can move across the nation and overseas. Their scope of responsibility often reflects the size of the departments for which they work. Technicians can specialize, but most work in healthcare facilities in one of the following roles:
- Medical coder
- Coding specialist
- Cancer registrar
Graduates of a bachelor's program in health informatics and health information management might step into positions such as:
- HIM department director
- Health data analyst
- Physician practice manager
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of medical records and health information technicians is forecast to rise by 22% in the decade spanning 2012-2022, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The increasing use of medical tests, treatments and procedures and an aging population with higher incidences of cancer were expected to drive this rapid growth. Medical and health services managers, including health information managers, are projected to see similar job growth, with a 23% increase from 2012-2022.
The BLS reported median annual wages of $35,900 for medical records and health information technicians as of May 2014. Health information managers had a salary range of $30,175 - $69,555 as of July 2015, according to PayScale.com.
Continuing Education and Certification
With an associate degree from a CAHIIM-accredited school, graduates might pursue voluntary Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification from AHIMA. Applicants must pass an exam to earn the RHIT credential.
Many colleges offer a post-baccalaureate certificate in health information management, often as an online program. These are designed to expand on bachelor's programs, providing information and training for leadership positions in the industry. These program also typically are open to working healthcare, information technology (IT), and business professionals who wish to prepare for AHIMA's Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification.
With some experience, graduates of bachelor's programs in health information management may be eligible for AHIMA's Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) designation. Passage of an exam is required to earn this certification.