How to Become a Health Information Manager

If you’re wondering how to become a health information manager (HIM), you might have heard that it’s an expanding and vital profession. Opportunities in this field are growing steadily as rapid advances in healthcare technology have led hospitals and other healthcare facilities to modernize their information systems. Indeed, students with an interest in the healthcare management field who possess strong analytical and organizational skills could find a career as an HIM rewarding and potentially lucrative.

Health information managers work with administrators, insurance companies, and doctors. They are problem solvers who possess technical skills, as they need to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in electronic health records software.

A health information manager works on a laptop at her desk while wearing a white coat.

What Does a Health Information Manager Do?

The primary function of a health information manager is to control the data related to patients’ medical information. This includes diagnoses and symptoms, along with completed and recommended procedures and anticipated outcomes.

HIMs also manage patients’ medical histories so healthcare practitioners can monitor their progress over time. This information is used within a larger data set as well to offer the medical community a wide snapshot of current and future healthcare needs for the broader population.

What else does a health information manager do? While analyzing and acquiring patient data, HIMs must ensure patient medical histories are protected from violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and document theft. Interested candidates should understand that being able to merge science, business, and information technology skills are critically important to success at this job.

Steps to Become a Health Information Manager

A combination of the right education and experience can translate to a successful career as a health information manager. Here is an overview of the key elements involved in this career path.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Relevant Field

A four-year degree from an accredited university is generally the minimum education requirement for an HIM position, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Earning a degree such as an online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management can provide students with a foundational understanding of healthcare practices, business operations, and professional standards, as well as issues such as medical law, compliance, and risk management. Students can also take courses in healthcare informatics to learn about software and technologies that they may use in their future careers. Those who successfully complete a BS in Healthcare Management program are often equipped with many of the necessary skills and educational background to pursue a career as an HIM.

Gain Professional Experience

Prior to becoming a HIM, candidates will also need to obtain relevant professional experience. Health services managers often have prior administrative experience in a doctor’s office, hospital, or another type of healthcare setting, according to the BLS. Candidates who have worked as a health services financial clerk or medical records technician may also be eligible to advance to an HIM role.

Obtain Certification (Optional)

Although most HIM positions do not require additional certification, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reports that obtaining a professional credential can help position candidates as leaders within the HIM community. Professionals must meet several eligibility requirements and pass an exam to qualify for AHIMA certifications such as the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA).

Health Information Manager Salaries

The median annual salary for health information managers and other types of medical and health services managers was $98,350 in 2017, according to the BLS. The median annual wage for those working in state, local, or private hospitals was $107,203, while those working in government settings earned a median of $106,230. Managers working in outpatient care centers and physicians’ offices earned annual salaries of $89,910 and $89,760 respectively, while those working in nursing and residential care facilities earned a median annual salary of $82,950.

Employment Outlook for Health Information Managers

The growth in healthcare employment is expected to maintain its upward trajectory, and the job outlook for HIM candidates is positive. The BLS forecasts employment of medical and health services managers — including HIMs — to grow by 20% from 2016 to 2026.

The reason for this favorable outlook is multifold. First, the widespread and growing use of electronic healthcare records should continue to create demand for both HIMs and the health information technology (HIT) professionals who support them. Second, qualified professionals will be needed to replace managers who plan to retire in the near future. Candidates who have a master’s degree in health administration, along with those who have advanced knowledge of healthcare IT systems, are more likely to have advanced career opportunities.

Learn More About Careers in Healthcare Management

The online bachelor’s in healthcare management program at Maryville University provides students with the fundamental building blocks they need to be successful in this career. Visit the program website for more information on the program, class offerings, and credit requirements.

Sources:

American Health Information Management Association, Registered Health Information Administrator
American Health Information Management Association, “Salary Snapshot: HIM Professionals in 2016”
American Health Information Management Association, “What Is Health Information”
American Health Information Management Association, “Why Get Certified”
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
CNBC, “Where the jobs are: Health and tech are in high demand”
Health Affairs, “Expanded Coverage Appears To Explain Much Of The Recent Increase In Health Job Growth”
Maryville University, Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management Careers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Health Information Privacy
U.S. News & World Report, Medical and Health Services Manager Overview