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    By Dr. Brina Hollis, CAHIMS, School of Health Sciences

    Information Technology (IT) is the act of applying computers to store, retrieve, transmit, analyze, and manipulate data.  Health Information Technology (HIT) is the application of the aforementioned used in the health care system. HIT is a growing and emerging field which brings many career opportunities to the field of health informatics and health information management. The current mandates such as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), support the use of  technology in health care in order to increase, cost, and access to health care and health services.

    The field of health information is emerging and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) careers in health information will continue to grow faster than average into 2024.* Health information professionals care for patients by safeguarding their health data.

    Like IT, the field of health information offers many different career tasks that include infrastructure, customer support, applications support, web technologies, and clinical. The infrastructure tasks deal with setting up and managing the hardware on the network and ensuring that the network and servers function properly. The customer service tasks deal with internal customer service and takes calls for internal customers (employees) when there is a problem with the network or issues with gaining access to the network. The applications tasks deals with making software and adapting software so that it is functional for the organization. The web technologies tasks deals with design, development, and architecture. Clinical tasks deal with utilizing technology to define, manage, and share health data in order to support patient outcomes. Clinicians also provide feedback on system design and ease of use.

    To make this information easier to understand, there are three main career categories that encompass the tasks listed above: health information technology, health information management, and health informatics.

    • Health Information Technology (HIT) deals mostly with the completeness, accuracy, and correct entry of medical information into computer systems.
    • Health Information Management (HIM) deals mostly with the management of health patients’ health information. HIM professionals deal with collecting, processing, validating, and disseminating health data.
    • Health Informatics (HI) has four main areas but deals mostly with information systems, information principles, and information technology in health care and health services. The areas of HI include biomedical informatics, nursing informatics, public health informatics, and applied informatics.

    Making the Transition 

    Education can facilitate the pathway to career transition. Operational experience is also important and can be gained by volunteering and obtaining a mentor who works in the field. As has been stated, the field has many opportunities and welcomes those with a clinical background, IT background, and those with a passion for learning about this emerging and exciting field.

    Tips for career transition include self-assessment, research, education, training, and networking.

    • Self-Assessment: Examining what the likes and dislikes are in a career is imperative to starting a career search. Being aware of what excites and energizes you and what you are passionate about.  
    • Research: Spending time researching the types of career opportunities that fall into the field can help to focus and organize your job search.  
    • Education and Training: Certifications and formal academic program are available in the field of health information. Obtaining a formal degree at the associate’s-, bachelor’s-, or master’s-level is one way of obtaining skills needed for the field. Certification through reputable agencies such as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), CompTIA, and The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is another way to gain knowledge of the field. Seizing opportunities for mentorship and volunteering can also help to gain the knowledge and skills needed for success in the health information field.  
    • Networking: Conference opportunities provide the opportunity to learn more about different facets of health information and provides the opportunity to meet other individuals with like passions.  

    Skillset and Competencies Required 

    Courses in health care, math, technology, finance, ethics, and business courses make up the skill set needed for a health information professional. Additional professional competencies and skills requisite for any HIT/HIM/HI position include:

    • Communication
    • Project management
    • Analytical skills
    • Research skills
    • Health law/ ethics
    • Human resources
    • eHealth
    • Disease classification systems
    • Clinical procedures
    • Clinical systems

    Facilitates and Job Titles  

    Those choosing to work in HI/HIM will have a variety of job opportunities and facilities in which to work. Some of the types of facilities that may offer employment to those who hold certifications, experience, and degrees in this area include:

    • Physicians’ offices
    • Hospitals
    • Ambulatory care centers
    • Private prison systems
    • Software companies
    • Public health facilities
    • Insurance companies
    • Private consulting firms
    • Managed care agencies

    Health information is the largest and fastest growing industry in the United States. A 2014 study conducted by HIMSS there is a shortage of qualified health information professionals and many organizations health information initiatives have had to outsource for talent or put projects on hold due to shortage of qualified professionals. Health information is an emerging profession that offers a variety of diverse career opportunities.  

    Dr. Brina Hollis, CAHIMS, is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University. The University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.  



    HIMSS (2014). 2014 HIMSS Workforce Survey. Retrieved from: http://www.himss.org/ResourceLibrary/genResourceDetailPDF.aspx?ItemNumber=41969. Visited April 23 2016.

    AHIMA (2016), Health Information 101. Retrieved from: http://www.ahima.org/careers/healthinfo. Visited April 23, 2016.

  • * Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, on the Internet www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm. National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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