Good news! Now is a better time than ever to become a medical records or health information specialist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,1 employment of health information specialists is projected to grow 15% from 2014 to 2024. A result of the aging population requiring an increased number of medical services, this rate is much faster than the average for all occupations, yet faculty shortages within the sector could impede the necessary delivery of these services.
Attributable to increased access to health insurance, the management and organization of all health information data are primary services which patients, especially geriatrics, readily need. Additionally, these patients require health information specialists to process claims for reimbursement from their insurance companies.
By fulfilling these obligations, HIM professionals are becoming the standard-setters for electronic health records; advocates for quality patient records and for patient access and utilization of personal health information; and data experts for collecting, interpreting and analyzing health information.2
Reasons for the Shortage
A 2014 American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) workforce study3 indicated that, at the time of publication, the HIM field had 40 different work settings and included additional specializations in critical work areas. Despite the field’s expanding employment options, data from this study also determined that this continuing diversification and expansion of roles and responsibilities has led to the increasingly apparent workforce shortage because not all applicants are competent to perform the necessary duties.
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Within the study, Linda Kloss, former AHIMA CEO, explains, “There is a national reported shortage of qualified people to fill HIM jobs and as a consequence these positions go unfilled or are filled by those who are unqualified.”
In response, healthcare facilities are now frequently requiring applicants to obtain a certification in health information prior to consideration for employment. This push for certification comes as a result of the understanding that a competent and well-trained staff can prompt the successful implementation of HIM.
Applicable certifications can include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR). Computer skills and competency are also becoming imperative as electronic health records (EHR) systems become the new standard for record management throughout the field.
“The challenge for healthcare is not just a shortage of people with technical skills. It’s also a shortage of people with the skills to marry technological savvy with business strategy as healthcare becomes more connected, coordinated and accountable,” said Daniel Garrett, principal and PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Information Technology practice leader, in a press release.4 “Despite billions of dollars spent investing in HIT, the lack of qualified professionals could slow progress toward quality and efficiency. The benefits of HIT will not be realized until organizations can ensure information is unlocked and integrated in a way to best inform critical business and clinical decision-making.”
Related academic and continuing education programs are expanding their courses to meet the industry’s instructive needs as well. However, not all workers who desire a career in this field want to employ the time and money necessary to receive either a certification or an associate’s degree in HIM. This gap in education is further perpetuating the workforce shortage.
In order to meet the demand of the patient population, healthcare environments need to continue finding quality HIM professionals to add to their teams. Until the shortage of HIM professionals is met, the field must continue to adapt and ultimately reevaluate its educational prerequisites.
Lindsey Nolen is a staff writer. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians. http://goo.gl/AooQwx
- American Health Information Management Association . Embracing the Future: New Times, New Opportunities for Health Information Managers. http://goo.gl/36SjG8
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Perceptions of Health Information Management Educational and Practice Experiences. http://goo.gl/GAFNu7
- PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC’s Health Research Institute Finds Shortage of Health IT Workers Could Slow Industry Progress. http://goo.gl/CEnK3V