You’re interested in a career in the health information management and technology field, but find yourself struggling to decide which path to follow. Will it be health information management (HIM) or health information technology (HIT)? Here’s a look at the differences between the two, how they’re related, and how a career in either can help you find your future in healthcare.
What’s the Difference?
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) defines HIM as the “practice of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care.” HIM professionals must understand the workflow between providers, private physicians, and hospital systems, as well as ensure the confidentiality, security, and integrity of information gathered.
For its part, HIT focuses on the “framework used to manage health information, and the exchange of health information in a digital format.” Professionals in HIT help implement electronic health record systems that capture, manage, and store patient data. The electronic health record systems support the retrieval and analysis of data that drive improvements in patient care and healthcare cost reductions.
“Healthcare providers have access to more data than ever before, thanks to electronic health records,” says Frank Waterstraat, program manager for the University of Wisconsin’s online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology.“ The result is emerging job opportunities in health data analytics, combining the disciplines of health information management and health information technology.”
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Download a four-page overview of the UW Health Information Management and Technology bachelor’s program, including information on courses, careers, and tuition.
HIM and HIT Working Together
HIM and HIT professionals have different responsibilities and skills, but together they help shape the future of healthcare. Workers in both areas are key to capturing, managing and using data, as well as training healthcare providers to more effectively use these systems.
“The past practice of the HIM and HIT professionals working in basement offices has dramatically changed,” Waterstraat says. “These professionals are involved in the planning, implementation, and management of the electronic health records systems. It is their responsibility to keep healthcare organizations current with ‘best practices’ in both the disciplines.”
The online UW Health Information Management and Technology program, a collaborative effort between UW-Extension and UW campuses, offers students interested in this field the opportunity to concentrate their studies in either HIM or HIT.
The HIM track builds students’ skill in human resources management, financial and resource management, and strategic planning and organizational development. Students following the HIT track concentrate on understanding information and technology systems, including programming and data structures, storage structure for data and information, data security, and information and communication technologies.
“The UW Health Information Management and Technology program has been uniquely designed to prepare graduates with skills in both disciplines,” Waterstraat says. “Traditional HIM programs focus on data, but the UW program also focuses on the technology involved.”
The health information field is considered one of the 20 fastest growing career areas in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Learning from instructors skilled in clinical data, information technology, and application of data analysis skills to healthcare, students in the UW Health Information Management and Technology program will acquire the ability to work in a wide variety of roles throughout the healthcare field. Graduates become versatile, coveted employees with skills that include leadership and expertise in a field facing continued growth and change.