Emphasizing health informatics, medical coding and computer applications, associate's and bachelor's degree programs in health information management (HIM) offer hands-on learning opportunities and clinical internship experiences. HIM majors utilize information technology to develop, assess and maintain health care data. Students train to work alongside clinicians and health care administrators, who rely on health care databases for quality improvement, research, education and more.
A master's program in health systems management prepares graduates for executive management positions in health care organizations. On the master's level, health systems management typically is offered with several concentration areas including health information systems, risk management and health policy analysis. Master's programs prepare students to make executive decisions in health care organizations and to develop policies that promote health and provide health services to communities.
Most undergraduate programs require incoming students to have a high school diploma or equivalent and complete a criminal background check. Some bachelor's degree programs also want students with RHIT credentials. Graduate programs require a bachelor's degree and, in some cases, GRE scores.
Associate of Science in Health Information Management
Curricula typically include traditional classroom coursework and hands-on experience in HIM labs, where students learn to maintain health information databases and patient records. Topics of discussion include information technology, classification systems and patient confidentiality. Students explore issues in information systems security and learn about medical coding, a system in which diagnoses and medical procedures have nationwide codes for research and billing purposes. Students generally must demonstrate efficiency, problem-solving skills and critical thinking through the following courses:
- Medical terminology
- Computer applications
Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
Students learn to translate clinical data into practical information that will advance research, medical care and cost-efficient policies in health care organizations. Topics of discussion usually include health informatics history, medical computing and health information ethics, in addition to studies in the business of health care, including budgeting and human resource management. Students typically complete a clinical internship at a medical facility toward the end of the program. Courses in this degree program might include:
- Medical coding
- Clinical research
- Information security
- Quality management
Master of Science in Health Systems Management
Curricula generally focus on the management of health systems rather than the design, assessment and maintenance of health information systems, as in a bachelor's degree program. Studies in organizational management teach strategies for improving organizational performance and efficiency and prepare students for leadership positions in health care organizations. Other topics include managerial decision-making, quality improvement and health care economics. Toward the end of a master's program, students often complete a health management practicum at a partnered health care organization or facility. Courses in a master's program typically include:
- Health care administration law
- Health care finance
- Strategic planning
- Health care marketing
Popular Career Options
Graduates of associate's degree programs might go on to work in hospitals, physician's' offices, insurance offices, long-term care facilities or other health care settings. Popular career choices include:
- Medical coder
- Health information technician
- Medical secretary
With additional training, graduates often go on to management positions in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health departments and more. Popular career choices include:
- Human resource manager
- Hospital administrator
- Quality improvement analyst
- Clinical group practice administrator
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers held 422,300 jobs in the U.S. in 2019 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 32%, much faster than the average for all occupations, between the years 2019 and 2029. The median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $104,280 as of May 2020.
Continuing Education Information
Associate's degree program graduates are prepared to sit for the American Health Information Management Association's (AHIMA) examination for the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. Graduates might also consider enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in health information management.
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program are eligible to sit for the AHIMA exam for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) credential. AHIMA also allows students in the final term of an HIM bachelor's program to take the credentialing exam.
Graduates of a master's degree program who are interested in a career in research or teaching at the college level should pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Popular programs include health services, health systems research, health systems management or health care administration.
With in-class and hands-on training, associate's and bachelor's degree programs in health information management prepare students to work alongside clinicians operating and maintaining health information systems. Students who go on to earn a master's degree in field may qualify for managerial positions.