November 30, 2020
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What are the Differences Between Health Information Management and Health Informatics?

health information management

Although Health Informatics (HI) and Health Information Management (HIM) may sound similar, there are many differences between the two fields. Both fields involve the use of technology in the healthcare field and share some common skill sets and job responsibilities, but there are more differences than similarities between these two distinct career fields.

Related resource: Top 20 Health Data Science Degrees

What is Health Information Management?

Health information management (HIM) can be described as the accumulation and storage of patient data. HIM involves the management of personal health information in healthcare organizations, hospitals, and public health programs to enable the delivery of services to the public. Some of the types of data that a health information management officer or professional may work with include patient histories from physical exams, clinical information from physical therapy and nursing notes, and records of X-rays and other radiological procedures. Health informatics professionals may also work with lab results from procedures like urine tests and blood tests and must maintain the quality and integrity of those records while ensuring complete protection and privacy of those records whenever they’re accessed by health care professionals.

While enrolled in a health information management program, students will usually take classes in healthcare management, as well as related areas like business and health information technology. Classes a student might see while pursuing a degree like a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management include Introduction to Healthcare IT Systems, Foundations in Healthcare Data management, Pathophysiology, and Medical Terminology. Other classes may include Healthcare System Applications, Healthcare Statistics and Research, and Classification Systems.

What Do Health Information Management Professionals Do?

Health information management professionals deal with the organization and management of patient data stored electronically. HIM professionals code health information for proper distribution or research and to ensure their organization complies with governmental regulations pertaining to patient data. They ensure that patient health records are complete, accurate, and that they provide access to records to those appropriate while protecting the privacy and security of patient health information.

What Degree Will I Need for a Career in Health Information Management?

Careers in health information management require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or experience with medical records management, coding and billing, and regulatory requirements. Those with a master’s degree in HIM will have the ability to earn higher salaries and a greater level of responsibility. Information technology knowledge, particularly involving electronic health records, is also often required. HIM careers may also require familiarity with medical terminology, medications, and basic anatomy and physiology. The median annual salary for a health information manager is $88,580 but those with master’s degrees will earn significantly more. HIM professionals have careers in many areas of Healthcare including:

  • Insurance companies
  • Hospitals
  • Home Healthcare Agencies
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Long Term Care Units
  • Public health

What is Health informatics?

Health informatics utilizes information technologies and information management to improve process efficiency and to reduce medical costs. Health informatics uses the data that is gathered and stored through health information management systems to create knowledge. It also involves the manipulation of enterprise-wide data to create improvement in outcomes, processes, and cost.

According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), health informatics professionals may focus on one of the four main areas within the health care system. Those areas include medical/bioinformatics, public health informatics, nursing informatics, and applied informatics. These specialties require knowledge in many diverse areas like engineering, management, public health, and computer technology.

What Do Health Informatics Professionals Do?

Professionals in Health informatics (HI) are those who design and develop information systems and processes to improve quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of patient care. They assess new technology for healthcare applications and deal with both the process and the tools required to record, store, and analyze healthcare information. They understand data and understand how to best use it in supporting decisions and protocols. They interact with clinical staff and patients in the evaluation of the effects of information technology on clinical processes, outcomes, and resources.

What Degree Will I Need For a Career in Health Informatics?

Because careers in health informatics require specialized knowledge of informatics and advanced skills, most careers for health informatics professionals require a minimum of a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics or a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean average salary for a Manager of Health Informatics is $120,920 per year and the employment of health information managers is projected to continue to grow fifteen percent through 2022, significantly faster than the average for other occupations.

The curriculum requirements of a health informatics degree program usually include several classes in information technology, business, and healthcare data. Degrees may also feature different concentrations in areas like Health Administration, Health Care Quality, or Patient Safety. Topics under discussion in health informatics programs include research methods, health care delivery models, human resource management, and ethics in health. Classes a student may take while earning a degree like a Master of Science in Health Informatics include Health Care Policies, Health Care Economics, and Health Care Delivery Models.

The Growth of the Health Care Industry

For the past several years, the health care industry has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy. The rapidly aging and expanding population has driven the need for additional health care professionals, and those needs have spanned the entire industry, from health care workers like nurses and doctors to technology-based employment in informatics and management.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the growth of the healthcare industry will reach 14 percent in the next decade, which is much faster than the overall average for the entire economy. Within its occupational outlook handbook for medical and health services managers, the BLS estimates that the total growth for all occupations in the next decade will reach 5 percent. Meanwhile, medical and health services managers can expect impressive growth of 18 percent.

The Most Notable Difference Between HIM and Health Informatics

Although health information management and health informatics are both concerned with the realm of healthcare, they tend to focus on different facets of the healthcare delivery process. Those who become health information managers will often be concerned primarily with the technology that is needed to securely hold and retrieve patient records. Meanwhile, health information careers usually focus on data analytics as a way to improve the delivery of modern health care.

Anyone who is interested in the purely technological aspects of healthcare delivery and wishes to work in the management of a healthcare organization may want to focus on pursuing a health information management degree. Individuals who want to work in an environment where the goal is consistent improvement and advancement in healthcare technology may want to consider training to become a health informatics professional.

Career Goals for Health Information Managers and Health Informatics Graduates

There are multiple career paths for graduates in technological health care positions. A graduate who earns a Master of Science in Health Informatics may eventually become a chief information officer (CIO), a clinical systems analyst, or a director of clinical informatics. Other jobs available include those as public health informaticists, health care app developer, or health data visualization specialist. Income potential for management-level informatics positions can reach more than $100,000 per year, and individuals who reach the executive level at their health care organization may earn more than $150,000 per year.

Meanwhile, individuals who enter the workforce as medical and health services managers with a degree in health information management can also earn more than $100,000 each year with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that individuals with a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience can expect median pay of $100,980 per year, which translates to $48.55 per hour. Some of the starting careers for graduates in HIM include those as medical coders, outpatient compliance auditors, and clinical documentation specialists. High-paying HIM careers include those as health information managers and clinical systems managers.

HIM and Health Informatics are Different from Health Information Technicians

It’s worth noting that health informatics and health information management are different professions from health information technicians, which are professionals who can begin work with a minimum level of training and a postsecondary nondegree award rather than a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. A health information management professional will usually need a master’s degree, and a health informatics professional will need the knowledge earned from a bachelor’s degree.

Prospective students who want to eventually work in healthcare management or in informatics may find it valuable to work as health information technicians during their time in college since the profession can offer a modest paycheck that can help with paying for college, as well as offer the student real-world experience in a healthcare environment. Some health information technicians actually work from home, so the work can prove extremely valuable to students who are busy with college work but still need to earn money while attending classes.

Choosing Health Information Management or Health Informatics

The choice to become a health information management professional or pursue a health informatics career is one that will usually come down to the type of work environment future health care professionals would enjoy most. A health information management career might include work in a variety of environments like hospitals, offices of physicians, and government organizations.

Meanwhile, a health informatics professional may find work outside health care environments with insurance companies, data analytics companies, and the information technology departments of health care organizations. The differences between health information management and health informatics careers are significant enough that it’s worth comparing those differences before choosing one degree program over another.