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How to become a Director of H.I.M.

andreapastor_thumbBy Andrea Pastor

Ever wanted to get into a healthcare career but you’re too squeamish around blood? That was the case for me, too. I also knew that I wanted to one day have a family and perhaps even a regular 9 to 5 type position, so I would have time for them. Then, when I was in college deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, I discovered HIM. No, not HIM as in the man of my dreams, but H.I.M. as in Health Information Management. Health information management is the practice of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting medical information vital to providing quality patient care. It is a combination of business, science, and information technology.

For me, health information management is a perfect combination of business, IT and health. I am able to support clinical providers by streamlining documentation practices electronically, participate in clinical information through the electronic records with coding, and ensure compliance through governmental regulations all through technology and electronic medical records. And best of all, there are rarely any 12 hour long shifts or late nights.

HIM professionals are highly trained in many health information technology applications and understand healthcare workflow. They are vital to daily operations of health information in electronic medical records (EMRs). They also ensure patient information is complete, accurate and protected.

Coding, one of the specialties within HIM, takes complex medical documentation from physicians and translates it into codes which are used for billing and analyzing healthcare trends throughout the country. A coder’s day consists of reviewing each medical chart of the patient seen the day before. They work closely with physicians and other clinical staff to ensure the most accurate documentation is present and often answer questions about adding the appropriate charges.

The most common interaction the general public has with the HIM Department is release of records. The first friendly voice you hear when calling the department is from one of our staff who is happy to help you obtain a copy of your medical record. The HIM department receives 100+ requests for records a week from patients, other healthcare providers, attorneys and health insurance providers. The quickest way to receive a copy of your medical record is to sign up for MyChart! MyChart is a patient portal which allows your medical records to automatically compile in your online account. Even better, you can pay your bill online or send your doctor an email, no matter the time of day.

Another important purpose the HIM Department serves is to oversee HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) outlined rules for the protection and confidentiality of patient protected health information (PHI). We work closely with the IT department to ensure the electronic medical record (EMR) is secure. Only appropriate staff can see your information in order to properly provide care to you.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. While these are the most common jobs in a clinic or hospital setting, the HIM field offers vast opportunities. With a degree in HIM, your opportunities are diverse: insurance companies, EMR systems, cancer, trauma and other registries, quality, compliance, consulting and many other exciting opportunities. The sky is the limit.

According to (The American Health Information Management Association) AHIMA there are approximately 12,000 to 50,000 new jobs anticipated by 2017, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites medical records and health information technicians as one of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the U.S. Payscale.com gives a good overview of the average salary for an HIM professional.

If you’re looking for a career change or an appropriate college path, why not consider a degree in health information management? There are several online programs available as well as degrees in university settings. For more information on this type of health care career at Southwest Health contact our Human Resources department to set up a job shadow at 608.342.4796.

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