What is Health Information Management?

Rachel Burkot

Health information management (HIM) is the process of organizing, tracking and maintaining paperwork for patients in clinics, doctors’ offices and hospitals. This industry also involves analyzing the paperwork and communicating with doctors to ensure that patients are treated properly, given appropriate medication and released or retained as needed. Health records may be taken by hand or on a computer, and patient data can either be stored in a filing system or on a computer. Health information managers are responsible for keeping track of this information, wherever it may be.

Patient records are considered private documents.
Patient records are considered private documents.

Medical records demand privacy, so those who become involved in health data management must be detail-oriented, organized and able to keep files confidential. Duties of a health information manager include managing cases, coordinating medical and pharmacology research, designing and selling software, managing information systems, directing a health information department, managing an office, undertaking compliance responsibility, enforcing regulations and restrictions, and securing and privatizing information. On three basic levels, health information management requires clinical skills, technological skills and leadership/management skills.

Health information management is important because it keeps medical records organized, ensuring privacy and proper care for patients and reducing stress on doctors.
Health information management is important because it keeps medical records organized, ensuring privacy and proper care for patients and reducing stress on doctors.

Due to the nature of the environment in which they work, HIM personnel must be familiar with medical practices and rules. Study and training will have prepared the health information specialist to work in a patient setting and stay abreast of medical developments and issues. Technological skills are required because health information management involves constantly updating a system for organizing paperwork. Those in the HIM community are becoming more educated in information technology to track, maintain and update medical records. Finally, managing health information requires strong leadership skills to uphold privacy standards and step up to various roles in the department as needed.

Health information managers play a role in ensuring patients receive prompt, effective treatment through communication with doctors..
Health information managers play a role in ensuring patients receive prompt, effective treatment through communication with doctors..

HIM professionals not only file patient data, but they often must code the diagnosis and treatment plans using a system agreed upon by the staff of the institution. Those in health information management most often work in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices or care facilities, but other environments include insurance companies and government agencies. Additional duties of an HIM professional at these institutions include ensuring that the records are complete and accurate, finding appropriate support or opinions for treatment, enhancing data usage, complying with health information standards, preparing the data for surveys and analyzing the records for research or policy uses.

Health information management involves collecting and storing patient information in a secure and confidential manner.
Health information management involves collecting and storing patient information in a secure and confidential manner.
Health information management refers to organizing and managing medical records.
Health information management refers to organizing and managing medical records.

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Discussion Comments

MrMoody

@David09 - I agree. The government has already passed legislation to provide incentives for healthcare providers to use e-prescribing and other digital approaches to health records management.

While some small healthcare practices have made the transition, others have been slow to follow. I don’t think it’s for lack of desire to change; many times it has to do with not staffing the right personnel to adopt the new technology, or limited Internet access in some of the rural areas.

While I applaud the government for providing incentives, I think they should cut some slack to healthcare providers who need more time to make the necessary changes.

David09

I think one of the most important steps any doctor’s office can take is to reduce its reliance on paper records. I think that using health information technologies to streamline paperwork would reduce administrative costs and ultimately lower the costs of healthcare.

I realize that the physicians want hard copies of their records because paper copies are permanent and not susceptible to “crashes” like digital copies.

At the very minimum, however, they should digitize all their paper work, feed it into a health management system, and use the digitized information for their insurance processing. The hard paper copies can be retained for backup purposes.

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