Opportunities for a health information administrator career are growing at a fast pace. Increasing concerns about the privacy of medical records, along with a projected increase of the health- care field as a percentage of the economy, due in large part to the average age in America rapidly increasing, should ensure that the need for health information administrators continues to climb for the foreseeable future. Laws governing the privacy records of patients have been under much scrutiny during the past decade and have been revised to enhance privacy, even as keeping them private becomes more difficult. Combined with these factors is the fact that paper records are increasingly being phased out, with most medical and healthcare facilities working toward the goal of being completely paperless in the not-too-distant future. This all adds up to huge demand for these health care careers.
Health information administrators work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, insurance companies, colleges and universities, state and local governments, and many other environments. Working as managers or supervisors, it is their job to see that the flow of health information in the facility is accomplished efficiently and securely. They will oversee the work of any number of health information technicians who do the hands on work of handling medical records. In many cases, health information administrators will also interact regularly with physicians, surgeons, other medical professionals, and upper-level managers from the healthcare facility.
Due to the nature of the job, excellent interpersonal skills are a high priority. The health information administrator must not only possess good verbal and written communication skills, but also but be able to get along well with all kinds of personalities. He or she must be able to submit to those with more authority as well as manage and supervise a large group of lower-level employees. In addition, the administrator must also be able to step in and do the job of absent employees at any given moment. This will require being aware of any changes in relevant laws, as well as staying abreast of changes in software and technology. In larger healthcare facilities, there will usually be several health information administrators, with their own areas of specialization, such as coding, or dealing with insurance companies. In smaller facilities, the work is usually more wide ranging and multifaceted.
In order to qualify for a health information administrator career, a person will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in health information management. The number of colleges and universities offering this degree isn’t large, but is growing in number, and most people should be able to find one that suits their needs. Because of the growing demand for health information administrators, it’s likely that more colleges and universities will begin offering this degree. For those who already possess a bachelor’s degree in another area, earning a master’s degree in health information management is an option. The coursework in these degrees covers every conceivable facet involved in a health information administrator career, such as physiology, anatomy, coding practices, privacy law, database management, principles of business management, medical terminology, health information management software, etc. No matter which degree a person earns, in order to be certified, he or she must first pass the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam, which is offered by the American Health Information Management Association, or AHIMA.
Salaries in the field are well above average. As of this writing, most health information administrators earn between $65,000 and $75,000 a year. Some will earn more, of course, while others will earn less. The higher salaries are associated with larger healthcare facilities and government employment. Job prospects for the next several years are excellent, as several relevant trends currently in place should continue, increasing the need for qualified health information administrators.