Study: Educational Advancement Key for Informatics Professionals

Last Updated September 24, 2018

Health information management professionals will need more education to succeed in a fast-changing healthcare environment, new research has found.

Advanced educational credentials such as a master’s degree will be particularly valuable for informatics- and analytics-related roles in clinical settings, according to the study published in the Journal of AHIMA, the official publication of the American Health Information Management Association.

Health information management (HIM) professionals “must have the body of knowledge and practice to ensure the completeness, availability, accuracy, and integrity of health information to facilitate real-time healthcare delivery and critical health-related decision-making,” the study noted.

The association, which has more than 103,000 members worldwide, commissioned a survey of nearly 300 senior-level HIM professionals working in clinical and nonclinical settings as part of its HIM Reimagined initiative. Among respondents in clinical settings, 41% said their current HIM workforce was only “somewhat or not very well prepared” for the organization’s future needs.

About half of respondents were at least “very concerned” about their employees’ skill sets, including hard skills such as technology and statistics, and softs skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork.

Among respondents in clinical settings, 40% said a master’s degree would best prepare HIM professionals for informatics roles, while 33% said a master’s would best prepare candidates for analytics roles.

The study’s findings, released in May 2018, validate the HIM Reimagined recommendation “for specialization and educational advancement” among health information management professionals.

Rising Academic Requirements

Employment opportunities continue to grow for health information and technology professionals, the 2018 HIMSS U.S. Leadership and Workforce Survey found. Among hospital leaders who responded to the survey, 37% said their health IT workforce had increased over 2017 and 34% said they were still looking to add employees.

Nationwide, about 1 in 9 jobs require candidates to have a master’s degree or higher, up more than 60% over the past 40 years, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Federal statistics show projected job growth of 6.5% across all occupations from 2014 to 2024. But jobs requiring at least a master’s degree will increase by 13.8% during that decade, making it the fastest-growing segment by entry-level education.

Advanced qualifications are particularly in demand in the healthcare and social assistance sector, where nearly 60% of jobs required postsecondary education as of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Noting the health information management profession must adapt to major challenges such as the implementation of electronic health records systems, the AHIMA research found that change, in part, “will be promoted by education and the higher-level skills of graduates.”

“There is an opportunity now for professionals to explore options to advance careers within and outside of organizations, identify training and professional development opportunities to obtain skills that align with emerging trends, and to demonstrate these skills with certifications and credentials,” the AHIMA research noted.