A health information specialist is a professional who manages and maintains the accuracy, security, and privacy of electronic- and paper-based medical records and is responsible for coding diagnoses and procedures, managing data quality, and ensuring compliance with legal and industry standards. Health information specialists play a crucial role in supporting the delivery of quality health care by ensuring patient information is complete, accurate, and accessible when needed. Read on to learn all about the role of a health information specialist, including salary potential, job outlook, and more.
What Does a Health Information Specialist Do?
A health information specialist is a key member of the health care team who is responsible for the management and maintenance of medical records. As such, O*Net Online advises the role has many duties on a daily basis.
The four main responsibilities of a health information specialist include:
- Coding diagnoses and procedures: Health information specialists use specialized software to code diagnoses and procedures based on medical records. This information is used to generate reports and bills and is also important for medical research and analysis.
- Managing data quality: Health information specialists are also responsible for ensuring patient information is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. By overseeing the quality of the data entered into Electronic Health Records (EHRs), health information specialists work to resolve any errors or discrepancies.
- Ensuring compliance with legal and industry standards: Health information specialists must be knowledgeable about laws and regulations governing the privacy and security of patient information, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). They must also be familiar with industry standards and best practices for medical records management.
- Supporting the delivery of quality health care: Health information specialists play an important role in supporting the delivery of quality health care by ensuring patient information is accessible and available when needed. This includes working with health care providers to ensure patient information is available during medical consultations and treatments and responding to requests for medical records from patients, insurance companies, and other organizations.
In addition to these core responsibilities, health information specialists may also be involved in various other tasks, such as:
- Maintaining paper-based medical records: The departure from paper is ongoing. Some health care organizations still maintain paper-based medical records, and health information specialists may be responsible for managing these records.
- Participating in audits: Health information specialists may participate in audits to ensure the health care organization is in compliance with legal and industry standards.
- Training and supervising staff: In larger health care organizations, health information specialists may be responsible for training and supervising other staff members, such as medical record technicians.
What Is the Significance of EHRs?
According to HealthIT.gov, electronic health records contain a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results. Digitizing this information allows providers to access data via evidence-based tools, helping them make informed decisions about a patient’s care. EHRs can also be shared across different networks.
How Do EHRs Benefit Health Information Specialists?
EHRs are important to health information specialists for several reasons:
- Improved patient care: EHRs provide health care providers with a comprehensive view of the patient’s health history, enabling them to make informed decisions about treatment and care. EHRs also allow for better coordination of care between different health care providers.
- Increased efficiency: EHRs eliminate the need for paper-based record-keeping and allow for real-time access to patient information, which results in improved efficiency and helps reduce the risk of errors and duplicated tests.
- Better patient outcomes: EHRs allow for the tracking of patient health data over time, which enables health care providers to identify patterns and make more informed decisions about patient care. This leads to better patient outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
- Improved data analysis: EHRs provide a wealth of data that can be used for research and data analysis. This helps health care providers identify trends, patterns, and opportunities for improvement and enables them to provide better care to patients.
- Enhanced security: EHRs are stored electronically, which makes it easier to protect patient information from unauthorized access and theft. EHRs also make it easier to comply with regulations such as HIPAA, which require the secure storage of patient information.
EHRs are critical for improving the quality of patient care, enhancing the efficiency of health care delivery, and enabling better data analysis. With the increasing use of EHRs, the demand for health information specialists — who are responsible for managing and organizing health-related data — is expected to continue to rise in the coming years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
What Are the Differences Between EHRs and EMRs?
In addition to EHRs, Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) also contain vital patient information. Take a look at the subtle – but important – differences below.
How to Become a Health Information Specialist
To become successful in this role, health information specialists must have strong attention to detail and excellent organizational skills and be proficient working with technology. They should also be knowledgeable about medical terminology and anatomy and have strong interpersonal and communication skills.
A degree in a related field is often required for this role, although some organizations only ask for a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Many health information specialists also earn professional certifications, such as the Registered Health Information Administrator or the Certified Coding Specialist.
What Skills Does a Health Information Specialist Need?
In addition to the aforementioned hard and soft skills you can earn through education, O*Net Online advises health information specialists, also called health informatics specialists, brush up on technology skills and become familiar with using several types of software programs, including:
- Analytical or scientific
- Business intelligence and data analysis
- Customer relationship management
- Database management system
- Database user interface and query software
- Process mapping and design
- Project management
- Web platform development
Health information specialists are vital to quality health care by helping to ensure the accuracy, security, and privacy of patient information. Whether coding diagnoses and procedures, managing data quality, or ensuring compliance with legal and industry standards, health organizations depend on health information specialists to function properly. With their strong attention to detail, organizational skills, and knowledge of technology, health information specialists are essential members of the health care team and work in many different types of settings.
In What Settings Do Health Information Specialists Work?
Per the BLS, health information specialists work in a variety of work settings, including:
- Hospitals: Health information specialists are often employed in hospital settings, where they manage and maintain medical records for patients who have been admitted for inpatient care.
- Outpatient clinics: Health information specialists may work in outpatient clinics, where they manage and maintain medical records for patients who receive treatment on an outpatient basis.
- Long-term care facilities: Additionally, health information specialists may work in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, where they work alongside medical staff in taking care of residents.
- Physician offices: Health information specialists may choose to manage and maintain medical records for patients who receive care from physicians in this environment.
- Health insurance companies: In this instance, they pull records and find care options that meet the requirements of both the insurance provider and the insured.
- Government agencies: Health information specialists may even work for government agencies, such as Medicare and Medicaid, where they manage and maintain medical records for patients who are enrolled in these programs.
- Software and technology companies: Interestingly, health information specialists can find opportunities for their unique skill set in software and technology companies that develop and support electronic health records and health information technology systems.
In addition to these in-person work environments, health information specialists can work full-time or part-time, and in some cases, may also work from home. The specific work settings and hours depend on the job and the employer.
What Does a Health Information Specialist Job Description Look Like?
Based on the information provided by O*Net Online and the BLS, in addition to career search and development sites such as ZipRecuiter, a sample job description for health information specialists may look like this one:
We believe health information specialists make up a critical component of the health care industry, especially in this company. As a health information specialist on our team, you will be responsible for managing and organizing patient information in a secure and confidential manner. This role requires a combination of technical, organizational, and interpersonal skills to ensure data is accurate, up-to-date, and easily accessible. One of the key responsibilities of the position is to collect and verify patient information, including demographics and medical history. You must follow all rules and procedures of HIPAA to do so. This information is then used to create and maintain the patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR). The EHR is a comprehensive record of the patient’s medical history and is used by health care providers to make informed decisions about treatment and care.
You will also be responsible for coding diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement and data analysis purposes. This requires a strong understanding of medical terminology and classification systems, such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. The coding process is critical for ensuring the health care provider is reimbursed for the services they provide, and for tracking health trends and outcomes.
Privacy and security are essential components of the health information specialist role. You must ensure that patient data is protected in accordance with regulations such as HIPAA and that it is only accessed by authorized individuals. This requires a strong understanding of data privacy and security laws and practices, as well as the ability to implement them in the day-to-day operations of the health care organization.
In this role, you will also contribute to quality improvement initiatives and audits. You will assist in reviewing data to identify areas for improvement, and work with health care providers and staff to implement changes that enhance the quality of care. Additionally, you will support internal and external audits to ensure the health care organization is in compliance with industry standards and regulations.
Finally, you must have strong interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with health care providers, insurance companies, and patients. You may be called upon to answer inquiries, provide information, and resolve issues related to the patient’s health information.
To be successful in this role, you should have a background in health information management, medical coding, and computer skills. You should also have strong organizational and analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to maintain confidentiality. A certificate or degree in health information management, medical coding, or a related field is helpful but not required.
A health information specialist is responsible for managing and organizing health-related data in a secure and confidential manner. In this role, you will participate in tasks such as:
- Collecting and verifying the accuracy of patient data, including demographic information and medical history
- Maintaining and updating EHRs and ensuring their accuracy
- Coding diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement and data analysis purposes
- Ensuring the privacy and security of patient data in accordance with regulations such as HIPAA
- Assisting with audits and data quality improvement initiatives
- Answering inquiries and providing information to health care providers, insurance companies, and patients
- Keeping up-to-date with industry standards and regulations
The ideal candidate should have a background in health information management, medical coding, and computer skills. They should also have strong organizational and analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to maintain confidentiality. The health information specialist joining our company will be a vital member of the health care team, responsible for ensuring that patient information is accurate, up-to-date, and accessible. The role requires a combination of technical, organizational, and interpersonal skills, as well as a commitment to data privacy and security.
What Is a Health Information Specialist Salary?
Medical records specialists, a similar title to health information specialists per the BLS, reported on their annual wages and salaries in May 2021, accounting for the diverse environments and the number of hours they worked. With no previous experience and entry-level education, the BLS cited $46,600 in annual salary, or $22.43 per hour. There were 186,400 jobs of this title in May 2021, and the position was expected to grow by 7% over the next decade, which is a rate about as fast as other professions are expected to grow.
Overview: What Is a Health Information Specialist?
A health information specialist is a valuable member of the health care team, responsible for ensuring that patient information is accurate, up-to-date, and accessible. The role requires a combination of technical, organizational, and interpersonal skills, as well as a commitment to data privacy and security. Those interested in becoming a health information specialist may pursue a certificate or degree in health information management, medical coding, or a related field. With the growing demand for EHRs, the demand for health information specialists is expected to continue to rise in the coming years.