Undergraduate healthcare information management programs provide foundational knowledge to prepare graduates for entry-level employment. At the associate's degree level, students get fundamental training in organizing, maintaining and retrieving healthcare records. Bachelor's degree programs in healthcare information management are often 2- or 3-year programs that build on an associate's degree program. Many undergraduate programs are also available online.
Master's degree programs provide advanced training that can lead to management careers. Most programs require about 33-40 credit hours if the student is already credentialed in healthcare information management. These programs may lead to a thesis or final research project, and graduates often qualify for national certification, which many employers require.
Associate of Science in Healthcare Information Management
An associate's degree in the field of healthcare information management (HIM) incorporates training in health care, information technologies and management skills. These programs are generally offered by community colleges, and require applicants to have completed high school or its equivalent. Some schools also have entrance examination requirements, such as the ACT or SAT.
HIM associate's degree programs prepare graduates for certification as Registered Health Information Technicians (RHITs), which is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Associate's degree graduates are able to code healthcare data, understand healthcare reimbursement processes and utilize various healthcare filing and registry systems. The coursework covers the different types of healthcare information management systems and also includes classes on office administration. Coursework may include:
- Medical terminology
- Technology in healthcare
- Pathology and disease
- Electronic medical record systems
- Coding and reimbursement
- Healthcare delivery systems
Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Information Management
Baccalaureate programs in healthcare information management prepare students to develop and administer healthcare data collection and reporting systems. Just as with the associate's degree, a high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission. Additionally, specific requirements often include prior coursework in math, statistics, psychology, computer and information sciences, anatomy and physiology and business writing.
A healthcare information management curriculum is composed of interdisciplinary courses in business, medicine and technology. Internships are also generally a program requirement. Graduates are generally eligible to take the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) examination, administered by AHIMA. Specific classes include:
- Healthcare statistics and research
- Health informatics
- Coding and classification systems
- Regulatory requirements
- Ethics in health information management
- Healthcare reimbursement
Master of Healthcare Information Management
A Master of Healthcare Information Management program prepares students for advanced leadership roles in the complex business of managing patient health records and other documentation. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and generally must meet minimum undergraduate GPA requirements. Other potential requirements include satisfactory scores from the GRE, experience in a relevant field and prior coursework in statistics, medical terminology and coding. Master's degree programs in HIM incorporate advanced training in the health sciences, information technology, management skills and statistics. Specific coursework generally includes the following topics:
- Information systems design
- Medical informatics
- Project management
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an associate's degree program in healthcare information management may find employment in a variety of locations, including hospitals, private practices and clinics. Graduates of HIM bachelor's programs are generally prepared for entry-level management positions within the field. Common job roles include:
- Medical records technician
- Data analyst
- Quality improvement associate
- Clinical documentation specialist
- Health information management director
- Clinical analyst
- Certified coder
- Compliance auditor
Career Info and Salary Outlook
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically identify healthcare information managers in its career outlook and salary information, it does provide information on general medical and health services managers. The medical and health services management profession is expected to grow by 18% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS reported in May of 2018 that these types of managers earned median annual wages of $99,730.
The Master of Healthcare Information Management is generally the terminal degree in the field. Doctoral studies may be pursued in health policy or information science. Certification is quite common and often required for employment purposes. AHIMA is the largest association for those in the health information management profession. It provides numerous credentials for HIM professionals, including the RHIA, RHIT and others for coding, privacy and security and data analysis professionals. The organization also accredits educational programs. Additionally, programs are offered through seminars, online training and other regionally available meetings.
Students in healthcare information management programs gain in-depth knowledge of medical informatics, healthcare security regulations and policy implementation. Some programs include internship opportunities and research requirements. Graduates are prepared for employment as health information managers, and they are qualified to take professional certification exams.