A mound of paper files spread out across a large desk is visibly in need of some management. With electronic data files, the need for organization is less obvious but just as urgent. The health care industry has a correspondingly high need for skilled people to manage its medical and billing records. If you're interested in a career as a medical records manager, you'll need to earn some credibility through education and certification.
If you're set on being a medical-records manager, your first step is earning a degree in the field. Health-information-management programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, usually referred to by the acronym CAHIIM. CAAHIM's website includes a searchable directory of all accredited programs, including over 30 bachelor's degree programs during the 2012-2013 academic year. Depending on your own abilities, a bachelor's degree in health information may be the only credential you need to build a worthwhile career. However, there are other options to explore.
If you already hold a bachelor's degree in another field, you can qualify in health information management through a one-year certificate program. Entry requirements vary between schools, but usually they'll expect you to have a solid grounding in statistics and basic sciences. These certificate programs are also CAHIIM-accredited. Master's degrees in health information management take two years, but if you're ambitious to rise in your profession, a graduate degree can set you apart from peers with a bachelor-level education. Professional certification can also be an advantage.
If you want to earn certification as a health information manager, you'll need to apply to the American Health Information Management Association. You must have graduated from a CAAHIM-accredited training program, or be close to graduation. Once AHIMA has processed your request, you'll get an authorization-to-test letter, or ATT, which you can use to arrange an exam date at your local Pearson Vue test center. You'll have four hours to complete the exam, which consists of 180 multiple-choice questions, divided into six categories, or "domains." If you pass the test, you'll earn AHIMA's Registered Health Information Administrator credential, or RHIA.
Once you're trained and ready to work, you should find opportunities are plentiful. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that demand for health information managers and other medical-services managers will grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020, better than the 14 percent average for all occupations. Nursing homes and other extended-care facilities should be a strong source of employment, as the country's population grows older and needs more health care.
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Health Information Administrator
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Medical and Health Services Managers
- American Health Information Management Association: Registered Health Information Administrator
- American Health Information Management Association: Candidate Guide
- Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education: Accredited Program Directory
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