- Healthcare big data analytics and informatics skills will be among the most sought-after competencies for health information management (HIM) professionals in the next few years, predicts a survey published in the Journal of AHIMA. Despite the imminence of ICD-10 implementation, HIM professionals participating in the poll believe that straight coding skills will diminish in importance as data analysis becomes more sophisticated and more foundational to organizational decision making and patient data management.
More than 3300 HIM professionals and other healthcare stakeholders took part in the study, designed to gauge the industry’s attitudes about the rapid changes of data governance and information management in an ecosystem increasingly reliant on electronic information.
“The health information profession is experiencing significant change, partly spawned by the conversion from paper to electronic health records and the impact of state and federal regulations,” wrote a team of AHIMA authors. “Most in the industry acknowledge that HIM professionals will continue to see changes in where they work, how they work, the technology they work with, and the quantity and types of data they are asked to manage.”
HIM professionals envision themselves taking on more visible leadership roles in the near future as care quality and revenue cycle management begin to lean more heavily on actionable insights generated from big data. Respondents anticipate spending a higher percentage of their time on teaching, legal work, quality, and data standards than they do right now, and predict a sharp departure away from the medical coding that currently makes up most of their job responsibilities.
Ten years from now, job competencies such as analytical thinking, research capabilities, and risk management will be significantly more important to the HIM professional than they are today, participants said. Experience with health data interoperability, big data analytics, EHR management, HIM standards, and design innovation will likely be much more highly sought-after than they are at present.
Despite this emphasis on big data analytics capabilities, HIM professionals don’t see themselves becoming completely interchangeable with data scientists. Instead, their enhanced knowledge of how data flows through the healthcare system from a “big picture” perspective will help to establish the data governance principles required as a foundation for the use of big data for population health management, clinical quality improvements, and predictive analytics.
“The future of HIM is highly dependent upon leveraging data as an asset,” the study says, noting that AHIMA has made information governance one of its highest strategic priorities. In October of 2014, the organization unveiled its information governance framework for healthcare organizations, which stresses accountability, transparency, privacy and security, integrity, and availability as core principles for data management.
“For information governance to be successful, organizations must adopt and support the tools and resources that allow professionals to gain more value from the data,” the survey says. “In short, information governance programs must clearly demonstrate a value added in terms of quality improvement, cost savings, and overall business understanding. In order to demonstrate this value, HIM professionals must be more comfortable with the competencies related to data analytics, such as business intelligence, database administration, inferential and descriptive statistics, health information technology, and project management.”
“At the same time, there is scant direction in healthcare organizations about who the information management experts are in this age of big data,” the authors continue. “With increased use of technology and the data it creates, HIM professionals must be able to demonstrate the skills needed to analyze data in a way that creates meaningful information upon which other healthcare stakeholders can take action.”
As healthcare big data analytics becomes more and more central to the quality improvement and revenue cycle management strategies of providers across the care continuum, the demand for health IT professionals that can think critically, pinpoint meaningful insights in a noisy big data environment, and lead their employers through their growing pains with a firm grasp of data governance principles will find themselves in very high demand.
“To meet future healthcare market needs and better define healthcare analytics roles, HIM professionals need to exploit their knowledge,” the study concludes. “If HIM professionals take a leadership role in this domain, healthcare organizations will be more effective at implementing information governance programs and achieving desired outcomes.”