tell me about HIM
May 22, 2012 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about job prospects in Health Information Management.

I need a job, man. I'm looking into a one year program in Health Information Management. The person who runs the college program raves about the job opportunities. People at hospitals that I've contacted, not so much.

I want to hear from people who have gone through this program, and people who actually do the hiring. I've learned the hard way that information is much more trustworthy when it's not coming from the people who want your tuition money.

Job prospects? Income prospects? Advancement and opportunity? Necessity of relocation? Interesting? Boring?

Any other information about any aspect of this career path is also welcome.

Thank you!
posted by crazylegs to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you tell us a bit about your program? What coursework have you done?
posted by teragram at 6:18 PM on May 22, 2012

I worked in HIM for a while at a west coast healthcare provider which no longer exists (was acquired by another one). I didn't go to school for anything remotely related to it, but I kind of fell into it because my mom worked for the company. It was incredibly stressful because we were in the process of converting all of the paper records to electronic records and so everything was pretty chaotic as far as getting charts to doctors but not knowing if they were paper or electronic, where they were (in the main storage room, on the other storage areas on various floors where the doctors' offices were, etc) and none of the people running charts had any way to keep track of these things when I came on.

After a couple of months I ended up getting a repetitive stress injury (bicipital tendonitis) from pulling so many charts from tightly packed shelves above my head in order to scan them, etc. I was on workman's comp for a while and then faced with the prospect of going back I decided to quit instead because it really wasn't worth it for me. This was probably 6 or so years ago though, and I assume things are probably more streamlined now. Which also probably means there are fewer positions available now that I think about it. We had a department of probably 30 people for our building, but most of those were people pulling and running charts back and forth for the doctors and after making all of the records electronic would not have been needed.
posted by primalux at 6:35 PM on May 22, 2012

Oh and just to say, I have no idea if my experience was typical, and I think it probably wasn't just due to how ridiculously lacking in structure and organization that department was. I wasn't there long enough to really try to improve anything though.
posted by primalux at 6:40 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm on a workforce planning committee at an academic medical center + ambulatory clinic system, and HIM is changing a lot. The [typically] older employees who did data entry, chart pulls, release of information xeroxing/faxing, and other clerical things are being replaced by computer-savvy analysts due to the use of electronic medical records. There is a real need for people with analytic and critical-thinking skills who can sift through data, spot outliers/gaps/errors, design reports/queries, and help with never-ending software implementations/migrations/upgrades. If you like health IT, this can be a springboard into electronic medical record analyst roles, which are in ultra-high demand.

Any hands-on work in an electronic medical record would be very helpful in landing an entry-level job. You could get that by working in almost any front-line clinic/hospital capacity, and I think it would be just as good as a 1-year HIM training course (possibly better, if you get to understand real-world clinic/hospital workflows and data issues). Have you looked into general health care scheduling, patient registration, unit clerk, clinic clerical support, or other front-line health care roles?

HIM is almost entirely about following internal procedures, rules, privacy regulations, etc. Are you okay with following bureaucratic regulations to the letter, even if they make no sense? Health care organizations are big ships to steer, so change is often brutally slow. Are you okay with being behind the technology, management, business, and general outside-world curve? Are you detail-oriented enough to make sure that all the correct little tiny check boxes are clicked appropriately on never-ending computer screens? Can you handle vague requests by patients who have no idea what their physicians need, and physicians who have no idea how to phrase their requests? Are you prepared to fax, scan, and upload documents for the foreseeable future until a magical health information exchange is somehow created and disparate electronic medical records systems are finally inter-operable? Are you okay with working in a cube farm away from natural light? As you can tell by these questions, working in HIM would drive me insane, but I am not you.

Best of luck, and feel free to memail me if you have any questions.
posted by Maarika at 8:37 PM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics can tell you a bit more about the job prospects.
posted by Maarika at 8:39 PM on May 23, 2012

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