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Impact of HIM Faculty Shortages

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Impact of HIM Faculty Shortages
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Impact of HIM Faculty Shortages
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Health information management may become limited by too few employees.

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Health information management may become limited by too few employees.

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News By Profession

Health Information

Health information management may become limited by too few employees

By Lindsey Nolen

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 percent between 2014 and 2024. A result of the aging population requiring increased 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.

Impact of HIM Faculty Shortages

Attributable to increased access to health insurance, the management and organization of all health information data are primary services that patients, especially geriatric, readily need. Additionally, these patients require health information management (HIM) 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 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 study indicated that, at the time of publication, the HIM field had 40 different work settings and included additional specializations in critical work areas.3 Despite the field's expanding employment options, data from this study also determined that 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.

Within the study, Linda Kloss, former AHIMA CEO, explained, "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.

Education Options

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 record (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 health information technology practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, 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 devote the time and money necessary to receive either a certification or an associate 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 former staff writer at ADVANCE.

References

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-6

2. American Health Information Management Association. Embracing the Future: New Times, New Opportunities for Health Information Managers. http://library.ahima.org/doc?oid=58258#.V1A3V9QrJko

3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Perceptions of Health Information Management Educational and Practice Experiences. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4142512/

4. PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC's Health Research Institute Finds Shortage of Health IT Workers Could Slow Industry Progress. http://www.pwc.com/us/en/press-releases/2013/pwcs-health-research-institute-finds-shortage.html

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Comments

I have noticed programs springing up at many campus and online colleges across the nation. The problem is the requirement for 2-5 years experience that employers want us to have in order to hire us. Too many times I see minimum experience listed as 2-5 years. Although AHIMA has initiated and apprenticeship program, there is still a growing pool of graduates who end up not working in the field because of this barrier. Employers need to understand that they are getting a qualified and trained professional and with just a little bit of work, they can address the shortage of HIM professionals easily by hiring us.
Nyrshea Williams
September 29, 2016
As I keep talking about the "shortage" in the HIM industry, there is no shortage of new graduates. Most of the shortage is what new graduates call the 2 year work paradigm. A true paradigm because the work of each segment of the industry is becoming so specialized, one is not able to get the foot in the door of the HIM department and working up to director position. HIM professionals are excellent researchers, we could not have gotten our Associate and / or Bachelor's degrees without being masters at Research. We need to do true research on this shortage, which Advanced magazine has been doing latey.
Beryel Cox
August 03, 2016

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