Your path to a career as a health information manager
Making an impact in the field of health information management means turning data into tangible applications that improve patient outcomes and enhance the operational capacity of health care systems
When it comes to medical data, there are many different factors that professionals need to carefully consider, from legal protections that guarantee patient privacy and confidentiality, to standardized billing and insurance coding. Health information managers balance these priorities while ensuring the integrity, security, and usability of patient data for individual treatment plans and large-scale health care process improvements.
If you’re a medical billing, coding, or document professional with an associate degree or a comparable level of experience, pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health informatics or information management could assist you on your path to substantial growth opportunities in the field. While health information managers with an associate degree made an average of $48,500, the average salary for this position was $88,000 for those with a master’s degree.
Why pursue a career in health information management?
This is a role in the health care field that fulfills a desire to support patients while having more of a behind-the-scenes part in their treatment. You can find a job within a wide variety of work environments compared to treatment specialists, nurses, and physicians. In addition to working in health care settings, health information managers may work for agencies that administer government benefits, insurance companies, vendors, and other entities.
As a health information management professional, you’re also likely to enjoy regular career growth tied to your accomplishments and education. AHIMA’s 2019 salary survey of U.S. professionals in the field found that 76% of respondents said their salary had changed over the past year. By far, the two largest drivers behind promotions were professional experience and education level.
You can leverage big data to support patients
Brian Coffey, an executive with Southwestern Health Resources, pointed toward the future and the benefits machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics would have on the health information field.
“These tools are able to go in and mine the EHR [electronic health records] so that the best data is right in your lap and you can take action,” said Coffey. “The technology is just going to keep moving on up in health care.”
Advanced technology is likely to play an increasingly important role in the health care field, and health information managers will be tasked with ensuring that data is used ethically, responsibly, and effectively. You could be a part of taking large sets of patient data and leading system-wide improvements to enhance health care operations and save lives.
Your expertise will become a valuable bridge
In 2020, a survey conducted by Philips found that 35% of younger health care professionals said they were unsure about how to apply digital patient data to treatment options. While 58% said they needed more training, 54% claimed that additional data management personnel were needed to help them apply data to patient care.
While treatment is obviously best spearheaded by physicians and other medical specialists, as a health information manager, you would serve as a bridge to the worlds of data science and business management for these health care practitioners. Your efforts would empower doctors and nurses by providing them with more efficient processes and new strategies than can help drive efficiency and produce better health outcomes.
Your career can grow with your experience
According to a review of data provided by Burning Glass Technologies, the median salary for all health information managers was $70,000. That number climbed to $73,000 after three to five years on the job, while those with six to eight years of experience made $84,000. After nine years, the median salary was $88,000. Even without a title change, if you gain experience as a health information manager, your compensation will likely continue to rise as you gain insights and hands-on expertise during your time on the job.
You can expect to experience further growth if you choose to pursue a career path that leads you to additional management and supervision responsibilities. The median salary for directors of health information management who had more than nine years of experience was $95,500.
Health information management organizations like AHIMA continue to advocate for the creation of a national patient identification solution to properly assist with the error-prone process of patient identification and matching. The creation of such a system would have a substantial impact on your work as a health information manager in terms of helping ensure long-term data integrity for patients.
Recently, coronavirus-related concerns have brought patient identification issues back to the fore. A July 2020 press release from AHIMA reported that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to remove an existing ban on collaboration between health care groups and the federal government working to create such an identification system. Additional legislative developments could have an impact on how this topic plays out.
A 2020 report in the Journal of AHIMA explored the importance of social determinants of health (SDOH), or nonmedical socioeconomic factors that correlate strongly with health outcomes. Despite the significant connection between demographic information like race and income with a variety of medical concerns, SDOH categories have played a limited role in health information systems until recently. Moving forward, health information managers will have to be at the forefront of creating systems for acquiring this kind of data and making it actionable. Your career path could help push this important development into its next phase.
Areas of opportunity for health information managers
AHIMA identified five industries that were experiencing a rising need for health information managers and associated positions:
Health care organizations
Health care software companies
These growth industries for the field represent all sectors involved in health care information technology and medical practice. This is where you can decide which opportunities line up with your individual motivation for pursuing this career.
Where are the health information management jobs?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, the states that employed the largest numbers of technicians for medical records and health information, alongside other health technologists, were:
Health care technicians make up a larger portion of total employment in several less-populous states. Metro areas anchored by the following towns and cities employed a relatively high number of these professionals in 2019, considering their overall population:
Morgantown, West Virginia
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Location can have a significant impact on employee compensation in this field. The metropolitan areas surrounding these principal municipalities saw the highest average wages in the country for medical records and health information technicians, as well as professionals with associated titles:
Health care organizations
As a health information manager working for a health care organization, you might implement and operate systems that record medical data and leverage it for various purposes, including billing and patient care.
In an academic setting, you might teach topics related to health information management, assist school-based medical facilities and clinics with their patient data, or participate in more extensive research related to health information.
Health information managers who work for consulting agencies may provide outsourced services for health care organizations or other institutions that need support with compliance or with data integrity, security, and management services.
You could be employed directly by organizations that administer publicly funded benefits, like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. You might also work with public health organizations at the local, state, or federal level.
Health care software companies
This is a significant source of employment for health information managers and their peers in health informatics. In this capacity, you could help develop new data management programs and ensure that they’re useful for health care organizations.
While health information managers often experience steep growth in their earning potential, those gains may largely come later in their careers. Entry-level opportunities for those just starting out in the field with no previous experience typically find a total annual compensation to the tune of $49,022. By the time you’ve gained nine years of experience, the average level of compensation rises to $51,069. Average pay is substantially higher in some areas like in Indianapolis where earnings are 36% more than the national average.
Advanced job options
After 10 years of experience, PayScale found that earnings for health information managers rose to $64,022. For 20 years and more, you might expect total compensation in the range of $65,550. However, it appears that additional education can open up new earning potential: The median salary for those with a bachelor’s degree was $76,000. Compensation grows rapidly as professionals acquire additional certifications: The average salary for somebody who had four or more credentials was $113,950.
Top skills and digital tools for health information managers
Health information managers sit at an important confluence of several different domains of expertise, including medical knowledge and data systems. These professionals need to possess a high degree of technical knowledge, a strong grasp of the pertinent legal requirements, and an innate desire to work collaboratively with colleagues in the health care field.
The most sought-after skills
Prioritizing growth skills is a good way to stand out from the competition as you pursue the most desirable positions in the field of health information management. The following list includes the fastest-growing skills and the projected posting growth for those skills over the next few years:
This field requires a strong familiarity with several technical skills. Here are the most in-demand hard skills for health information management and informatics professionals, along with their relative demand:
Relational Database Management System (RDBMS): 36.4%
Microsoft Excel: 17.6%
Microsoft Office: 8.2%
Soft skills are very important since health information managers work in a wide variety of different environments and have to be able to work with a broad cross section of medical and information technology personnel. Focus on developing the following skills, which were determined to be the most important based on the percentage of 2019 job postings in which they appeared:
Teamwork and collaboration: 27.2%
Attention to detail: 16.2%
Top emerging skills
Technology roles require professionals to constantly adapt to new circumstances and acquire additional skills. Consider learning more about the top emerging capabilities in the field:
Internships in health information management can be a valuable asset for discovering which specializations in the field most appeal to your talents and interests. Consider applying to programs sponsored by the following organizations:
If you’re interested in pursuing a health care-related career that focuses on data management and the use of information systems, health information management represents an opportunity for you. You can also enjoy career growth in proportion to your educational accomplishments and experience level, while helping improve patient outcomes through analytics and other technological solutions. Find the next step in your health information management career.