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The HIM Job Market

New technologies and reform drive demand for highly qualified HIM professionals and new HIM roles.

As new technologies are developed to meet the need for advanced information management, the HIM profession is rapidly moving in new and diverse directions. In this era of change, the role of the HIM professional is evolving from that of manager of information to a strategic analyst of electronic data. Demand for HIM expertise is steadily rising, largely due to ICD-10, EHR implementation, the influx of newly insured patients, and the overall impact of healthcare reform.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health information professionals is expected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for other occupations. The implications for the HIM job market are monumental - both challenging and rich with opportunity.

Top Trends Driving Change in the Job Market

Data Integrity, Data Governance
Data integrity is by far the highest priority for healthcare organizations today - making HIM professionals accountable for ensuring quality data for reporting and reimbursement purposes, as well as patient safety. While the deluge of data from a variety of sources creates complex challenges, ensuring policies and procedures to properly manage data - data governance - has become critical. HIM holds the key to understanding how information is managed within the organization. As big data assumes a higher priority, HIM plays a part in determining how it can be used in meaningful ways.

Healthcare Reform
One thing we know for sure is that healthcare reform will require ongoing recruitment and retention of highly skilled, well-trained HIM professionals. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 48.6 million uninsured Americans in 2012. The volume of newly insured patients alone will present challenges and opportunities for providers seeing more patients while trying to implement new technology, provide quality care and control costs.

As organizations commit to the latest technology for storage and managing data, HIM professionals must have a more diverse skill set and higher level of expertise. In addition, healthcare reimbursement will be tied to quality of care measures such as patient satisfaction scores and readmission rates. This requires monitoring and reporting of quality related to clinical outcomes and cost efficiency, creating new leadership opportunities for HIM.


Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
The transition to EHRs has already provided significant opportunities for HIM professionals. From design and implementation of systems to ensuring information integrity, collating meaningful use data, and introducing patients to portals, the EHR has opened new doors for HIM in the traditional and non-traditional settings.

Going forward with EHRs, HIM skills continue to be needed as organizations work to ensure the standardization of EHR data and support patient consent for information sharing among physicians, clinics and hospitals.

Health Information Exchange (HIE)
While private and public HIEs work to transform the exchange and delivery of information, HIM professionals are well-positioned to manage the finer nuances of broader information sharing. HIEs move information sharing beyond the four walls of a healthcare provider organization and as a result, demand a higher level of privacy and security oversight. HIM professionals play a valuable role.

E-Discovery
Along with the HITECH Act and other advances in technology come new obstacles to using traditional methods governing legal discovery. HIM professionals help set new standards as states adopt e-discovery rules and regulations governing the use and disclosure of EHR information.

Computer-Assisted Coding (CAC)
Computer-assisted coding revolutionizes the review and coding of medical records, and opens opportunities for HIM professionals to guide effective implementation of the new technology. HIM brings even more value to the organization as more of their time is devoted to technology adoption and data analysis. CAC will also redefine how coders approach their work and enhance the coding process.

Education and Research
Requirements of HIM educational curriculums have begun to reflect change, with more emphasis on data analysis and research. We are seeing a transition to a master's degree-level profession and many university programs offering online degree programs to reach more students and provide flexibility for working professionals. Given the demands of the healthcare environment, advanced and specialized education prepares HIM professionals for advanced careers and should be part of every career map.

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Exploring the Evolving Job Market

Among the emerging jobs included in the HIM Career Map are key positions that healthcare organizations should consider as part of strategic planning. Likewise, HIM professionals can explore and begin mapping career pathways toward advanced and master-level positions such as:

  • EHR Specialist- provides technical support for the implementation of EHR and other HIT technologies to onsite users before and during implementation of IT systems in clinical and public health settings.
  • HIE Director-requires an understanding of the type of technology required to interface with NHIN and other facilities working within the exchange, and a basic understanding of legal and regulatory requirements associated with the exchange of health information.
  • Meaningful Use Specialist-provides access to the most current technology to develop and maintain a program that ensures the hospital, employees, and affiliates comply with HITECH requirements and deadlines for Meaningful Use.
  • VP of Coding-requires an understanding of the type of technology required to interface with NHIN and other facilities working within the health information exchange, and a basic understanding of legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Practice Workflow and Implementation Specialist-serves as a system-wide resource for initial implementation, design and future state optimization; actively involved in process redesign, policy review and development; works to achieve process efficiency and operational effectiveness.
  • Senior Leadership-Expect to see HIM at the table with Administration, IT, Finance-involved in budgeting and strategic planning, positioning the department as a profit center, promoting optimal financial performance along with quality of care.
Shaping the Future

The future is bright for HIM professionals. We must assert our value, redefine our role, and embrace change with optimism. One of the fastest growing professions in the healthcare industry, HIM is expanding into all areas of healthcare.

In addition to managing information, organizations need people who can document and track data for all departments, and develop tools for analysis, reporting and informed decision-making. The skill set employers are seeking in HIM professionals and the opportunities available to our profession will continue to evolve as traditional roles are further enhanced to meet the changing environment in healthcare. To stay abreast of new opportunities, continue building relationships with your peers, professionals associations (like AHIMA, ACDIS, HFMA, HIMSS, etc.) and healthcare recruiting firms.


Going forward, one of HIM's greatest challenges is making sure we have enough qualified professionals to take on new and changing roles. This will be addressed through education, training and recruitment aligned with evolving trends to secure the best of the best, from entry level to HIM executive management. Our job is to provide resources for current and new professionals, partner with AHIMA, collaborate with educators and put the graduates to work!


Kayce Dover, MSHI, RHIA has worked in the HIM industry for over 15 years and is the president & CEO of HIM Connections. She is active in AHIMA and has served various roles on the local, state and national level. Attentive to the unique needs of each person she works with, Dover helps HIM healthcare organizations find qualified HIM professionals and helps candidates find their next dream job.

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Good article, would like to see more on various avenues of training available currently, and perhaps, online courses being offered today at various Universities around the country. Are there Curiculums that focus on the new technologies coming out to handle the newly integrated systems between hospitals and the new health care system being introduced? More information on these integrated systems would be good to know more about as they come into use.

John Duncan, PhD.,  Pharmcist in Training,  UniversityApril 28, 2014
Silver Spring, MD




     

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