Health Information Management vs. Health Information Technology

As healthcare becomes more data-driven at every level, the need for specialized professionals capable of managing this information is growing all the time. Anyone looking for a career path that opens up a lot of opportunities, promises to be stable over the long term, and creates the potential to advance into lucrative upper-level positions would be smart to focus on health information.

The two most common career paths for these professionals are Health Information Management (HIM) and Health Information Technology (HIT). Both paths have a lot to offer ambitious careerists, which makes picking one over the other a significant challenge. To help you make the best choice for your long-term future, compare both options head to head according to the categories that matter most:

Number of Job Opportunities

Health Information Management

A health information manager is just that, a manager. And since teams only need one leader, there are likely to be fewer positions for health information managers overall. These professionals also work as members of teams, but their ultimate goal is to move into supervisory/managerial positions. The number of opportunities may be fewer, but these professionals are in a better position to move into upper-level or even executive positions.

Health Information Technology

Since health information is increasingly becoming “digital-only”, the need for technical professionals to manage, secure and optimize the information is huge. HIT professionals can expect to find a larger number of job opportunities overall, but the potential to advance may be limited.

Rate of Pay

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the median pay for Medical and Health Services Managers to be $96,540 per year. Depending on the title of the HIM professional and the part of the country he or she works in, this figure could be significantly higher.

The BLS estimates the median pay for Medical Record and Health Information Technicians to be $38,040 per year. That is significantly lower, but it is important to realize that the demand for HIT professionals in the private sector is significant. The tech companies that develop hardware and software for the healthcare industry regularly employ HIT professionals and in some cases pay them very generously.

Median Annual Salary Comparison

$96,540
Health Services Managers

vs.

$38,040
Medical Record and Health Information Technicians

Required Education

Both of these career paths require approximately the same level of education. There are opportunities available with just a certificate or diploma, but typically an undergraduate degree is the necessary starting point for a career. Ambitious professionals can then go on to earn graduate degrees in order to open up more job opportunities and enter the upper echelon. For those considering management or administrative roles, a bachelor’s is absolutely required and a master’s degree may also be needed in some instances.

One important consideration, however, is that HIT is considered a subset of HIM. As a result, there are more HIM programs available overall. This gives career-oriented professionals more flexibility over where, when and how they pursue the necessary education.

Required Skills

The skills required for success as a health information manager parallel those necessary for any manager.
Here are some of the required skills needed:

  • Can supervise teams
  • Able to track and control metrics
  • Form short and long-term plans
  • Take on a number of administrative roles

The professionals who thrive in this position tend to be “people persons” who are able to communicate clearly and motivate others.

The skills required for success in health information technology are similar to any technical profession. Here are some of the skills for this role:

  • Be extremely tech-savvy
  • Be highly detail-oriented
  • Be capable of focusing on very specific tasks and responsibilities

Even though these professionals work in teams, much of their work is done individually. People who prefer to work on their own with minimal supervision tend to thrive in this role.

Final Considerations

If you are still on the fence about HIM vs. HIT, drill deeper into the details. The BLS publishes detailed data about the demand and rate of pay for specific professionals in specific parts of the country. If you plan to settle in a certain state or metropolitan area, determine which career path is more in-demand.

You should also consider the credentials you already have. If your background is in management or technology, your path into a HIM or HIT career respectively is a lot easier. Changing course means dedicating a lot of time and money to re-educating yourself.

Finally, think hard about your personal and professional priorities. A job you hate is not worth it no matter how much money you make. Conversely, a job that cannot support your desired standard of living will only leave you frustrated. Figure out what you, and anyone who depends on you, truly want and need over the long-term, then use that insight to plan the smoothest career path possible.

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