Closing the Skills Gap in Health Information Management

Closing the Skills Gap in Health Information Management

March 14, 2017 |

When Michael Klemme left the military, he knew what he wanted. However, he wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

“I wanted to be able to get a job and work anywhere in the world,” he said.

His first step was enrolling at East Central College. That’s where he discovered the Health Information Management (HIM) degree.

The ECC HIM program trains students to fill a pivotal role within the medical environment – connecting clinical, operational and administrative functions. Skilled HIM professionals ensure an organization has the right information on hand when and where it is needed.

“The training, instruction and support that was provided to me by the entire staff and faculty at ECC was outstanding,” he said.

After graduation, Michael fulfilled his goal. He was selected out of a field of a dozen candidates to fill a medical health record administrator position in Guam. “Everyone at East Central College made this dream possible for me,” he said, “and I am forever grateful.”

“Michael’s story is not uncommon,” said ECC HIM Instructor Nanette Sayles. “It’s not one of those careers that people grow up planning to be like a nurse or a fireman, but when they do discover it, they see its value.”

According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill jobs like HIM, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, make up the largest part of America’s labor market.

“This program has been a catalyst for change in so many lives,” said Program Director Stephanie Buchholz. “Graduates are able to leave minimum wage positions. Their HIM degree is often the first step to personal and professional achievement for a lot of students.”

“I’ve been in HIM education since 1998,” Sayles added. “In that time, I’ve seen single parents be able to support their families – some don’t even have to leave their homes to do it. It is a career that offers flexibility.”

The demand for an HIM degree isn’t going away, especially as medical records continue to move into the digital space. According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the job outlook for Health Information Management graduates is expected to increase 10 percent by 2024!

Gateway Medical Solutions in Sullivan knows the demand well. They rely on East Central College to fill key positions. The medical billing company hired their first ECC graduate in 2014 and has hired several since.

“If anyone is looking to change careers,” said Chief Financial Officer Scott Schwader, “I think ECC provides a great opportunity to get into a growing industry. In fact, Gateway Medical Solutions has grown each and every year. We now provide billing services for more than 100 physicians in 18 different states!”

Schwader says it can be a challenge finding enough skilled workers for his business, and a degree in HIM can give an applicant a real advantage.

“We like to hire people who have Health Information Management degrees. They are well-rounded and ready for the workforce,” he explained. “We pay them more because they have more knowledge of healthcare systems, and they are often better coders.”

While The East Central College Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Management is designed for students seeking employment immediately upon graduation, many of the credits may qualify as transfer credit at four-year schools!

East Central College has an Articulation Agreement with Stephens College, offering a pathway for ECC HIM graduates to earn their B.S. in Health Information Administration. Also, ECC has an Articulation Agreement with Maryville University, offering a pathway for ECC HIM graduates to earn their B.S. in Healthcare Practice Management.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) will honor and celebrate health information professionals during the 28th annual Health Information Professionals (HIP) Week March 26–April 1, 2017.