HIMSS, CHIME seek to separate health IT, health informatics, health information management occupations

As the Standard Occupation Classification Policy Committee is making revisions to its classifications for 2018, it may consider distinguishing occupations related to health informatics, health information management and health information technology.

CHIME, HIMSS and 36 other organizations wrote to the SOCPC regarding their desire to separate these three job categories into their own unique codes, saying they are "concerned with the conflation" of the occupations.

Occupations are classified into codes by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for purposes of collecting, calculating and disseminating data.

"Each of these occupational areas include workers with distinct skills, job titles, and education and/or training, which will be difficult to reflect under a single detailed code, as proposed in the current draft SOCPC recommendations," they wrote. "While interrelated, we believe each occupation has unique origins, have developed in response to changes in different environments and will continue to demand different kinds of skills, education and training in the future."

The letter details the health informatics professions as being interdisciplinary and combining clinical knowledge and IT application for more efficient care. The profession has moved from a mainly academic setting to an applied setting, as biomedical data becomes digitized and EHRs and other IT applications become commonplace, according to the letter. "In order to deliver higher quality care at controlled costs, health informatics professionals are essential members of the modern care team, assimilating not only clinical data, but financial data, governmental data, population health data…to ensure patients and families have the right information at the right time," according to the letter.

Comparatively, they write health information management professionals are more focused on managing data without the expectation of using it in a clinical setting or context. What was born out of managing paper records for billing, coding and compliance, health information management professionals have evolved to manage information in an electronic environment. "HIM professionals are primarily concerned with clinical codes and concepts meant to inform billing or establish business rules," according to the letter.

Finally, health IT professionals are rooted in hardware, software and traditional IT. This includes enterprise resource planning, revenue cycle management, healthcare-oriented applications, cybersecurity, risks analysis and desktop support. "Fundamentally, though, health IT professionals are IT professionals in healthcare, not experts in information governance as are HIM professionals, nor are they experts in the clinical application of IT as are health informatics professionals," the letter indicates.

The organizations that signed the letter recommend SOCPC include three distinct codes for these three occupations.

"Separate detailed codes will allow both industry and government to track organic changes to each job category, over time, and it will enable both government and industry to forecast expected changes in the workforce more accurately," they wrote. "Such forecasting is critical to economic development across the nation, and it can serve as the basis for positioning citizens for training and more impactful funding."

More articles on health IT:

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