Health Information Management Schools
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The Health Information Management (HIM) career is a growing field where students can work with medical data to organize and analyze health data as it is collected in clinical settings. Health information managers often work closely with information technology staff as well as clinical staff to ensure workflows that maximize the efficacy of data collection. Health information managers are able to weigh in on how to improve patient outcomes as well as clinical efficiency by analyzing the data available to them and applying their knowledge.
Most health information management professionals obtain at least a bachelor’s degree education that is specifically targeted towards HIM. There are many of these programs available around the U.S. that teach a foundation of medical knowledge and administration that can form the basis of a very rewarding career.
Health information managers and directors work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, private practice offices, mental health care facilities and other clinical settings. However, they are also increasingly employed in non-clinical settings as well including insurance companies, software companies and government positions. According to a 2014 report from Burning Glass, posted health information manager and director positions were taking 42 days on average to fill, versus an average of 33 days for all occupations, and were paying a median salary of $77,483. In other words, employers are having a hard time filling their HIM positions and are paying good money to those candidates they ultimately select. As another point of comparison, the same paper reports that health information technician positions, which typically require less educational investment, were taking far less time to fill, at 26 days, and were paying an average of $33,845 per year. Given those metrics, it may be time to consider upgrading to a health information management career, and conveniently some HIM programs are in fact specifically geared to help the registered health information technician (RHIT) become a health information manager or registered health information administrator (RHIA), and even more conveniently, some of those programs are offered online. Keep reading to learn more about the available HIM programs in the U.S. and how to become certified as an RHIA.
Degree & Certification Programs
An advanced education is necessary in order to pursue a career in health information management. There are no specific legal requirements in order to pursue this career, but obtaining a degree at the undergraduate level, at minimum, is highly recommended.
Luckily there are a number of health information management programs around the country that cater to students who want to learn more about this growing field. Most of the programs offered culminate in a Bachelor of Science degree, although Associate’s degrees, Master’s degree, and certifications are all available at some locations as well. It should be noted that in order to become a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement.
- University of Illinois at Chicago (B.S.) – The University of Illinois, as part of their Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences College of Applied Health Sciences offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management. The program is expected to take two years to complete for students who are able to dedicate themselves to a full-time schedule, or three years on a part-time basis. Professional practice experience, by way of the school’s relationships with local healthcare facilities, is integrated into the 63 credit program.
Southern University at New Orleans (B.S.) – Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management Systems. In order to complete this campus-based program, students must satisfy all general education requirements for the school in addition to the specified HIM degree requirements, which include a professional practicum experience. Students generally choose to complete their practicum experience in a hospital, behavioral health facility, ambulatory facility, or nursing home that is local to the New Orleans area.
The Ohio State University (B.S.) – The Ohio State University (OSU) has a campus-based bachelor of science program in Health Information Management and Systems in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, OSU offers a 4-year schedule, including general education requirements, prerequisites and the 2-year HIMS curriculum in order to complete the program. The 63-hour HIMS curriculum culminates in a 6-week management professional practice affiliation that can be completed in Ohio or another state. Prior to applying to the program, students must schedule an informational tour or interview with a HIMS professional in order to determine the student’s suitability and desire to commit to the program.
University of Central Florida (B.S.) – The University of Central Florida (UCF) offers a bachelor of science degree program in Health Informatics and Information Management. One particularly notable part of this program is that senior students spend 5 weeks in a professional, hands-on experience called a “management affiliation” somewhere in the state of Florida. This full-time internship can thoroughly prepare graduating seniors for the rigors and practicalities of a career in health information management. The school also offers two scholarships specific to their HIIM program: the Carole Barr Scholarship and the Betty W. Kernodle Memorial Scholarship.
Temple University (M.S.) – Temple University is one of the few schools in the country that offers a Master of Science degree in Health Informatics as part of their Department of Health Services Administration and Policy. The program is campus-based and designed for part-time students so that it is convenient for working professionals. The program requires 30 credit hours of coursework and includes a work-related applied projects as well as a graduate seminar.
Hybrid & online programs
George Mason University
University of Saint Mary
Southern New Hampshire University
Many Health Information Management degree programs are offered as online or hybrid online/campus programs. This allows working professionals to pursue an advanced degree in order to further their health information management careers without leaving their current position or relocating in order to take classes. The programs featured here will prepare students to take the RHIA exam just as thoroughly as classroom-based programs do.
University of Wisconsin (B.S.) – The University of Wisconsin offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management and Technology. The 60 credit program is offered entirely online with flexible scheduling, making it perfect for those students who want to work and go to school at the same time. There are no on-campus requirements for this program, although students can still take advantage of services such as career placement, advising, and libraries.
Rutgers (B.S.) – The Rutgers School of Health Related Professions offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management that is available entirely online. There are, however, two elective courses that students may take on campus if so desired. The academic reputation of Rutgers is quite prestigious and graduates from this rigorous program can expect to be well prepared for the RHIA exam. According to Rutgers internal surveys, 100% of students who graduate from this program are satisfied with their choice and 93% are employed in health information management careers within 6 months of graduation. The program also offers annual need-based and merit scholarships, which students should consider applying for if eligible. 100% of graduating students who exercised the early test option since 2011 have passed their RHIA exam.
University of Kansas (B.S.) – The University of Kansas School of Health Professions offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management. The two-year program is open to undergraduates as well as community college students who have completed the necessary general education requirements. Many of the courses are offered in a hybrid format with classroom and online elements. There is also an online RHIT-to-RHIA option for those who have already earned their Registered Health Information Technician credential. For the B.S. program, at the end of the student’s senior year, the program requires a 4-week professional internship. For particularly ambitious students, the school also offers a track to completely both a Bachelor’s of Science and a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration in just five years. 93% of students who graduate from the B.S. program pass the RHIA exam.
Core & Elective Courses
The curriculum for a Health Information Management degree is not strictly prescribed. However, there are a number of courses that are standard across most programs as core requirements, including:
- Human Resource Management
- Human Pathophysiology
- Health Records
- Health Information Management and the Law
- Coding and Classification Systems
- Financial Management
- Medical Terminology
It is important to note that though most of these course will be required as part of a HIM education, they may go by different course titles as decided by the faculty of an individual institution.
Because the majority of HIM programs culminate in a bachelor of science degree, elective courses tend to be found in the general education requirements of that program and may range from anything to additional science courses to courses in the arts and humanities. These elective opportunities are a good chance for students to explore different areas and broaden the horizons of their education.
In order to be eligible for the RHIA exam, students must graduate from a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for the Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). A full list of accredited programs in the U.S. is available on the CAHIIM website.
This accreditation process assures the academic integrity of the program. The standards for accreditation for undergraduate and graduate programs are different but similar. A full accounting of the undergraduate accreditation standards and graduate accreditation standards is available in pdf format on the CAHIIM website. The initial accreditation process includes an application, thorough self-assessment, CAHIIM review and site visit and final council and board review.
In addition to CAHIIM accreditation, every institution should have general accreditation from a national organization that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. For instance, a HIM program might be accredited by the CAHIIM while the school over all may have accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools or another regional accreditation agency.
According to the BLS, the projected demand for health information professionals is quite high through 2022 (22% versus 11% for all occupations), although as noted by Burning Glass in its 2014 report, the BLS does not specifically track health information manager and director demand, meaning the BLS numbers apply to the broader field of health information, as opposed to health information management specifically. Burning Glass further suggests that it takes 27% more time to fill the average health information manager or director position versus other occupations, meaning employers seem to be having higher than average difficulty filling open positions.
There are a number of reasons that there will be an increased demand for health information management professionals. Firstly, as all medical records continue to take the form of electronic health records (EHR) there is an increased need for people who know how to organize and assess these types of records. Further, as medical offices and hospitals are forced to transition to the ICD-10 coding system, better-educated people – and specifically those who have been freshly trained – will be needed to help this transition go smoothly. Finally, there is a growing demand among employers for more efficiency and so a more sophisticated understanding of health information systems looks to be important going forward, as does clinical exposure and experience that would enable a medical professional to perform advanced analytics aimed at improving patient outcomes.
Because the health information management profession does require specific education and offers certification, those employed in the career can expect salaries that reflect that dedication. Burning Glass reports that the position pays an average annual salary of $77,483 versus $33,845 for health information technician roles that have a lower barrier to entry (note that the BLS lists the median salary for health information technicians at $40,380, but they are operating from a very different set of data, and likely a slightly broader one based on how that data is gathered and what careers are included). Those with the RHIA credential can expect higher wages overall as well as better opportunities for growth and career advancement.
|Career Facts||Health Informatics|
|Related Careers||Computer and Information Systems Manager, Nursing Information Systems Coordinator|
|Common Job Titles||Clinical Informatics Director, Clinical Informatics Strategist, Clinical Informations Systems Coordinator|
|Technology & Equipment||Medical Imaging Database Systems, Medical Software, Medical Picture Archiving Systems, Computers|
|Sourced from BLS, January 2015|
Licensing & Certification
Although there is no government licensing process for these professionals, anyone who wishes to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator exam must first complete a bachelor's level degree from an accredited institution. This exam is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Students can begin to register for the exam during their final semester in an accredited program in order to jumpstart their careers upon graduation.