News Feature | September 19, 2013

The Evolving Role Of HIM Professionals

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer


Health information is growing and big data means changes to the roles of Health Information Management Professionals

Health IT Outcomes recently reported on the need for 50,000 health informatics workers in the next five to seven years, as well as a projected 21 percent increase in health IT jobs between 2010 and 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the projected growth rate is “faster than the average for all occupations,” and the "demand for health services is expected to increase as the population ages.

“An aging population will need more medical tests, treatments, and procedures. This will also mean more claims for reimbursement from private and public insurance. Additional records, coupled with widespread use of electronic health records by all types of healthcare providers, should lead to an increased need for technicians to organize and manage the associated information in all areas of the healthcare industry.”

The Journal of AHIMA recently published an article, Healthcare's Data Revolution: How Data is Changing the Industry and Reshaping HIM’s Roles, addressing the changes occurring in IT and the implications they will have on HIM professionals. According to author Lisa Eramo, “Providers are demanding better health IT systems that allow HIM and data analytics professionals to sift through large amounts of data and turn it into ‘information’ that can change the business and function of healthcare.”

Eugene Richard, RHIA, CHDA, CCS, CCS-P, coding integrity program manager at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, says his job revolves around data. According to Eramo, “Richard says data analysis will eventually become a part of every HIM professional's job. ‘Information management is migrating toward an entirely electronic medium,’ he adds. ‘Paper is quickly becoming a thing of the past. You have to be able to feel very comfortable working with electronic data. Most of the time, it's just raw data. You have to know what to do with it.’”

That the demand for more data means HIM professionals will need to be capable of controlling big data, ensuring its security and explaining its meaning. “Experts say HIM's unique combination of clinical and IT skills makes them ideal leaders in the emerging data revolution,” writes Eramo.

CHDA Credentials are also important to formally recognize HIM skills. Richard was pleased to find that CHDA recognized previous work he had done, saying, “I had found that I was working more and more with data and needed to know about how information systems worked and how programming and data mining skills were becoming an integral part of my skill set.

"I was working with the case-mix and trying to project how various changes in the industry were going to affect various client hospitals. So in effect, I was working as a health data analyst years before there was a credential for it."

David Dimond, chief strategist, healthcare solutions at EMC says, “HIM professionals, particularly those who are certified data analysts, can evolve into data scientists. So much of what goes on in data science and Big Data isn't necessarily about data models. It's much more around the stewardship of data and how the data can be refined going forward."