What is HIM?
The world of health information management is far reaching--so far, in fact, that the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers up a whole table on what HIM in professionals do and the various career paths there are in the field. We like AHIMA's abridged version:
"Health information management improves the quality of health care by insuring that the best information is available to make any health care decision. Health information management professionals manage health care data and information resources. The profession encompasses services in planning, collecting, aggregating, analyzing, and disseminating individual patient and aggregate clinical data. It serves the health care industry including: patient care organizations, payers, research and policy agencies, and other health care-related industries."
Many occupations fall under the realm of HIM. HIM professionals include coders, medical transcriptionists, cancer registrars, HIM directors, compliance officers, health data analysts, HIM system managers, directors of quality management, health information technologists and myriad other titles that run the gamut through HIM.
- HIM professionals often perform coding duties, analyzing medical records and assigning the proper codes in accordance with the coding classification system. Coders use the codes to capture what happened while a patient was receiving health care, and the codes are used to ensure that the health care facility receives proper reimbursement for the procedures and diagnoses.
- Medical transcriptionists (MTs) work to tell the stories of the patients. They listen to voice files or review speech recognition documents that recount a patient encounter, and transcribe or edit the files to ensure that the encounter or procedure is documented properly.
- Cancer or tumor registrars manage cancer data. They collect data on cancer patients and follow up on patients who had cancer in the past to help improve cancer care in the future.
- HIM directors manage HIM departments, often supervising staff members and helping with large-scale projects such as adoption of electronic medical records. The duties of an HIM director range in scope with the size of the facility. There are a number of other HIM professions, but these are the most common ones.
Where do HIM professionals work?
You can find HIM professionals anywhere from quiet home offices to bustling hospital HIM departments. They may work at government agencies or professional associations, and can be found throughout the health care system.
How much do HIM professionals earn?
You can check out the ADVANCE Salary Survey for 2013 to get a feel for what you'd make if you entered the HIM profession. The average salary of a full-time coder came in at $46,541 in 2008, while the average pay of a full-time MT was $32,792. Our survey showed that HIM directors made an average of $73,875, while cancer registrars grossed an average of $44,018.
Where can I find schools to become an HIM professional?
You can visit our Find a School page. The professional associations in HIM have accredited schools that they recommend. To see schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), visit the CAHIIM directory at http://www.cahiim.org/accredpgms.asp. AHIMA and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) teamed up to form the Approval Committee for Certificate Programs (ACCP) to certify medical transcription education programs. You can see a list of ACCP-approved programs at http://www.ahima.org/careers/codingprograms. The National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) also has a list of approved schools for future cancer registrars. You can find that list at http://www.ncra-usa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3914.
Where can I find more information about HIM?
Peruse our pages here at ADVANCE, and be sure to visit the archives and search for areas that interest you. You might also want to stop by the pages of professional associations in HIM. Here's a list:
- AHIMA (The American Health Information Management Association)
- AAPC (The American Academy of Professional Coders)
- AHDI (The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity)
- HIMSS (The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society)
- NCRA (The National Cancer Registrars Association)
Also, ADVANCE assembled a document of recommended reading for new HIM professionals. Feel free to post further questions in our forums, http://community.advanceweb.com/forums/14/ShowForum.aspx, where you can get answers from HIM professionals working in the field.