Health Information Management Majors
Find Fast-Growing Job Market
By Gail Pollock
The health information management lab at Macon State College demonstrates the transition taking place in the system of managing health information. HIM majors use the computers to learn digital programs related to their field. They must also learn how to supervise paper-based systems, expected to be phased out over time, by using the color-coded records on the right. HIM major Emma Young, far left, talks to Charlotte McCuen, HIM clinical coordinator for the College, and Dr. Nanette Sayles, right, director of the HIM baccalaureate program.
Imagine a system of technology that would consolidate your medical records into one file accessible to all of your physicians. That file would follow you when you traveled or relocated. It would “speak” for you if you were unconscious in an emergency room. Combined with millions of other patient records, it could help pinpoint at an early stage any outbreaks of epidemic disease or bioterrorism. The system would do all of this while maintaining the privacy of your medical records and redirecting $140 billion of annual administrative costs to direct health care.
By the year 2015, this system of technology is expected to be a reality.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has begun a 10-year project to make electronic health records, or EHR, the norm. Macon State College’s bachelor of science program in Health Information Management, or HIM, will ensure that Central Georgia health care institutions have the quantity and quality of personnel they need to be at the forefront of the comprehensive project.
“The health information management field will require a number of well-educated professionals to create and manage a system for electronic health records,” said Dr. Nanette Sayles, Macon State's director of the HIM baccalaureate program. “We knew that we had to be proactive to meet the need in our own region.”
“There is a national shortage of HIM professionals,” said Charlotte McCuen, health information clinical coordinator at Macon State College. “Georgia's demand for them is even higher than the national average.”
Emma Young, 29, is a health information management major who intends to help meet the demand. A downtown Macon resident who came to the College unsure of what she wanted to major in, Young is now the enthusiastic president of the Macon State Health Information Society. She is actively working to increase both the membership and the community presence of the group.
“I was looking into majoring in information technology, and then I heard about the HIM degree,” Young said. “I decided I'd rather work with computers than learn how to program them. Also, the health field was interesting to me but I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse. After talking with Dr. Sayles, I liked everything I heard about the HIM program and enrolled right away.”
Although a position at a Central Georgia hospital is Young’s goal, she appreciates the career flexibility that comes with an HIM degree. “I can do so much with this degree,” she said, “from working in a private doctor’s office or hospital coding medical diagnoses and procedures to managing a medical records department.”
Krista Gray, 21, is a senior health information management major who is also looking forward to entering the profession. She transferred to Macon State from Valdosta State University after researching a number of health professions and deciding HIM was for her.
“I came across health information management on Georgia’s list of desperately needed professions,” she said. “For me, it’s the perfect mix of medicine, business and technology.”
She also found MSC to be the perfect mix of small size, willing faculty and suburban campus. That made Macon State a better choice for her than the Medical College of Georgia, the only other public institution in the state that offers a bachelor's degree in health information management.
Gray has already been hired to work an entry level position in health information at a south Georgia hospital because of her background in Macon State’s program. “I plan to strengthen my skills in that position before moving into a management position later,” she said.
Like Young, she is confident that she has found the right career in HIM.
“Having a job that I earned and look forward to going to everyday will make all the effort worthwhile.”
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