Medical doctors go to graduate school for more than a decade to earn the knowledge and skill to help patients achieve positive health outcomes. Yet, many doctors hardly understand the rules and regulations governing medical data.
Because health information is so incredibly sensitive, containing private information that many patients do not want anyone else to know, doctors and the facilities they work for need to go above and beyond to protect medical data from loss, theft, or exposure.
For some doctors interested in running their own private practices, that might mean returning to school for a degree in health information management (HIM).
What Is a HIM Degree?
Health information management involves the collection, storage, analysis, and protection of patient health information. Many colleges and universities offer HIM degree programs alongside other types of programs for healthcare administration.
To earn a HIM degree, students typically need to dedicate four years to the study of policies and technologies that are essential to building and managing an effective health information system.
HIM degree programs are relatively easy to complete online, though many involve onsite training as well to ensure that students can function in a real-world healthcare facility.
Often, HIM students take classes with subjects that overlap with medical school courses, like anatomy and physiology or medical ethics; this is to ensure that non-doctors in this field have the essential knowledge to work with this type of data.
HIM also focuses on statistics, which is an essential skill for anyone in the data science field, as well as organizational structures within healthcare facilities, which can help HIM professionals scale their systems for different providers.
How Can Doctors Use HIM Degrees?
Long gone are the days when businesses could organize and efficiently utilize information stored in filing cabinets. Today, complex digital systems help ensure that necessary information is accessible and controlled as well as safe from any kind of damage or attack.
Businesses everywhere are undergoing massive transformations to adopt the technology necessary to build comprehensive information systems which can collect, analyze, organize, and deploy data as necessary to support operations.
Healthcare facilities, like private practices and clinics, have even more significant concerns when it comes to managing information. A significant amount of health data is tightly regulated to ensure that patient’s privacy is maintained by their providers.
HIPAA and other policies include strict guidelines for providers to follow to ensure that patients’ rights are properly protected — and doctors interested in launching their own offices need to understand these policies and develop compliant systems or else suffer endless fines and costly cyberattacks.
A HIM degree will help doctors gain the skills and knowledge they need to build and maintain health information systems.
This, in turn, will help their practices become safer and stronger, which will keep patients coming back for years to come.
Are There Other Ways to Keep Health Information Safe?
Of course, few doctors relish the prospect of returning to school for another degree, especially when they have finally found some amount of stability in their careers.
Fortunately, earning a HIM degree oneself is not a requirement for launching a successful private practice or clinic. Instead, doctors should look to partner with a health information management firm or hire on staff an experienced health administration professional with a HIM degree of their own.
However, in doing this, doctors must be able to relinquish authority over this area of their business to their health information manager, who will know more about existing regulations, available tools, and optimal systems than doctors themselves.
Doctors tend to go above and beyond in their work to ensure that patients are as healthy and safe as possible — and when launching their own practices, doctors need to extend this level of care to the information they collect on patients.
A HIM degree is a must-have for any healthcare professional interested in building and managing information systems.
Doctors eager to launch their own practices need to think critically about whether they have the time and energy to pursue a HIM degree of their own — or whether they should outsource the complex work of health information management to another professional.
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