Population Health Jobs – Does the HIM Shoe Fit? 

By Betty Rockendorf, MS, RHIA, CHPS, CHTS-IM

Much as the Prince sought the person who fit the glass slipper, employers are seeking job candidates who fit the bill for population health positions! Perhaps you are the one! It is a career move worth considering.

I recently attended AHIMA’s Virtual Assembly on Education. Presenters from the AHIMA Foundation Research Network (AFRN) Population Health Workgroup discussed their study and the findings related to Population Health Workforce: Are we teaching the right skill sets to HIM students? I’d like to share some of those findings with you.

Definition of Population Health (as presented at AoE):

  • Population health is the health status of an identified population.
  • Socioeconomic, personal health practices and development, biology, and access to health servicesinfluence health status.
  • Special populations are at increased risk of acquiring COVID-19 and have poorer health outcomes.
  • Thus, COVID-19 has highlighted health inequities in elder and chronic disease patients.We know that population health management (PHM) is data driven and encompasses informatics, data analytics, business intelligence reporting, as well as claims data, clinical data, and patient-provided information. PHM workers use health status indicators to identify trends and patterns.Where does HIM fit?The Workgroup conducting this study found that the skill sets currently taught in HIM academic programs do fit well with PHM. PHM requires effective use of electronic health records and health information exchange in the collection of patient information. There is a demand for healthcare workers who possess a deep understanding of classification systems, research, health informatics, and the knowledge of how to capture and analyze patient data and transform it into useful information.The AFRN Population Health Workgroup Study:This workgroup searched and narrowed down 50 job postings with “Population Health” as the keyword. They found:
  • 67% of the postings were for Management Level (Director of Population Health, Population Health Manager, etc.)
  • 18% were for Analysts/Technical positions (Population Health Analyst, Health Scientist)
  • 4% were looking for Coding expertise (Coder)
  • 8% fell in the Other category (Advisor, Educator, etc.)When looking at the job requirements, they overwhelmingly reflected (67%) some form of “managing data”.Twenty (20) of the Management positions had an educational requirement of a Bachelor’s degree, while 16 of the Management positions required either a Master’s degree or PhD. Of all the jobs in PHM, 55% required a Bachelor’s degree or higher, while 35% required a Master’s degree or higher.

Top 10 Skills Sets in Population Health:

The workgroup found these as the main “skills you need for 2020”:

  1. Soft Skills
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Reports/Spreadsheets
  4. Workflow
  5. Project Management
  6. Research
  7. Data Analysis/Visualization 8. Electronic Health Records
  8. Database
  9. Classification

Note that 170 skills were mentioned, but these were most prominent. Of these skills, 82% could be mapped to the HIM educational competencies taught. No major gaps were found between HIM education and population health skill sets.

The workgroup concluded that “HIM professionals are viable candidates for these population health management positions!”

What do you think? Next steps?

COVID-19 has increased the demand for population health professionals.

–If you already have a Bachelor’s degree or beyond, you may fit the bill for a position in PHM. A few areas to brush up on would include data analytics and software, as well as project management. Familiarize yourself with population health issues such as equity and access. Review your skills in Domain III–Informatics/Data Analytics and Domain VI–Leadership/Management.

–If you are interested in pursuing a degree, this gives you food for thought! –If you’d like further information, please feel free to contact this author.

–If this is a topic you’d like to discuss at a WHIMA networking event, please let me know! I’m on the Membership Engagement Team that offers virtual networking.

References:

AoE 2020. Population Health Workforce: Are We Teaching the Right Skill Sets to HIM Students? Presented by Shannon Houser and the AFRN Population Health Workgroup. Accessed on August 4, 2020.

Betty Rockendorf, MS, RHIA, CHPS, CHTS-IM is Program Director for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Health Information Management and Technology program. She is an active volunteer on the WHIMA Membership Engagement Team. Contact Betty at: rockendo@uwp.edu