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Winter 2024 Issue

Careers: HIM Careers: The Rise of Skills-Based Hiring
By Susan Chapman, MA, MFA, PGYT
For The Record
Vol. 36 No. 1 P. 28

The field of health information (HI) is evolving. With the baby boomer generation retiring, employers are emphasizing practical skills over formal education, and new careers and microcertifications have emerged to meet the field’s demands.

Jennifer Young, MS, Ed, RHIA, CCSP, workforce development manager at AHIMA, provides an update on the latest opportunities and requirements to help candidates find the right positions to achieve success.

A Paradigm Shift
A few years ago, most employers required a successful job applicant to have a college degree. However, the HI field is undergoing a transition, with employers no longer emphasizing academic degrees. “Employers are having a hard time getting good, qualified candidates,” Young says. “It’s become challenging for them to find qualified professionals when stringent educational requirements are in place. This shift opens up opportunities for a broader pool of candidates to apply as employers focus on their experiential skills.”

According to a recent Forbes article, the shift to skills-based hiring offers employers several benefits. For instance, as Young notes, they have access to a larger pool of qualified candidates who have both skills and knowledge. Human resource departments can also more readily categorize résumés based on quantifiable skills, which means a shorter period from the time of application to that of hiring.1

Meeting the Need
Educational institutions are pivoting to meet this demand by offering stackable credentials where learners can complete either a course or set of courses to earn certificates or certifications. Once candidates have acquired the desired skills and knowledge to meet their career goals, they can then choose to pause their education or continue and complete a degree in addition to the certificate or certifications they have earned along the path.

AHIMA is also playing a vital role in meeting this changing landscape and has recently introduced six microcredentials, which can be viewed at www.ahima.org/microcredentials. Each of the following microcredentials is linked to distinct professional roles:

• risk adjustment coding (RAC);
• release of information (ROI);
• clinical documentation integrity (CDI)—outpatient;
• patient identification and matching;
• auditing: inpatient coding; and
• auditing: outpatient coding.

“Microcredentials demonstrate focused expertise for skill sets aligned with employers’ needs,” Young says. “While certifications and traditional degrees provide a broader level of education related to a particular field, microcredentials allow you to demonstrate that focused knowledge.”

Young describes these microcredentials as a strategic move on AHIMA’s part to align education with the evolving needs of the HI industry. “The microcredentials not only cater to traditional job roles but they also reflect the growing demand for specialized skills in emerging areas such as AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning,” she explains. “When you earn a microcredential from AHIMA, you demonstrate to employers that you possess concentrated knowledge that sets you apart as a specialist ready to fill roles in high demand. AHIMA microcredentials provide individuals with opportunities to stand out in job-candidate pools and increase their chances of being hired for positions they desire.”

AHIMA Microcredentials and Their Corresponding Roles

RAC Microcredential
A RAC is the same as a hierarchical condition category, or HCC, coder. The educational requirements are typically an associate degree, with a bachelor’s degree preferred. Based on workforce hiring trends, this coding specialty area may require an RAC microcredential in addition to a registered health information technician (RHIT), registered health information administrator (RHIA), or coding certification. Additionally, employers generally seek candidates who have worked as coders for two to five years. Other qualifications include experience in developing and delivering coding education with quality assurance and auditing in managed care or the health care industry in general.

ROI Specialist Microcredential
An ROI specialist microcredential can lead to an ROI specialist position. Individuals with this role may also have the title of ROI representative, electronic-records technician, ROI technician, or ROI processor. Prospective candidates may benefit from being enrolled in an educational program. Employers may prefer an associate degree, RHIT, and one to three years’ experience in HI or ROI. In addition, it’s beneficial if candidates have experience with Microsoft Office products, the EHR, or ROI software.

CDI-Outpatient Microcredential
A CDI-outpatient microcredential can lead to a number of different roles, including that of revenue integrity specialist, CDI specialist, CDI educator, CDI manager, or CDI quality assurance auditor.

CDI manager and quality assurance auditor roles are considered advanced and master positions in HI, respectively. A CDI manager is typically responsible for managing, coordinating, and performing the day to day operations and workflow of the CDI program. A CDI quality-assurance auditor is responsible for reviewing the work of CDI specialists. Typically, candidates for these roles possess a bachelor’s degree in health care.

Patient Identification and Matching Microcredential
This microcredential can lead to a position as a master patient index (MPI) specialist. Some alternative titles for an MPI specialist may be an MPI analyst, manager, or coordinator; an enterprise master patient index, or EMPI, specialist; or data integrity specialist or analyst. When hiring an MPI specialist, not only is the patient identification and matching microcredential beneficial but an associate degree is often required, while a bachelor’s degree is preferred. Qualified candidates should also possess an RHIT or RHIA and have experience with chart review, MPI merging, and the EHR.

Auditing—Inpatient Coding and Auditing: Outpatient Coding Microcredentials
Individuals who are interested in pursuing careers as coding auditors, which are also sometimes referred to as coding education auditors, would benefit from completing these two microcredentials. In general, employers also require that candidates have completed a bachelor’s degree. A successful applicant should additionally have an RHIT or be a certified coding specialist (CCS) with an RHIA. If a prospective employee has two years’ experience of MS-DRGs, ambulatory payment classification auditing, or inpatient or outpatient coding in a similar setting, then the RHIA and CCS are preferred.

For employees who seek to advance their careers, this area of HI offers potential for growth. Coding auditors have opportunities to become coding supervisors or assume other CDI roles.

Career Map
AHIMA provides a sophisticated career map that enables aspiring employment candidates, or those who hope to grow in HI, to view existing and emerging positions as well as the requirements for each role. The AHIMA Career Map can be accessed by visiting https://ahima.org/careermap. The site not only offers information for job seekers but also provides resources for HI students, faculty, and employers. “From the shift in hiring practices to the integration of AI and the changing role of education, the industry is navigating a transformative period. As we explore the trends in HI careers, we’re seeing evidence that adaptability, continuous learning, and a focus on practical skills are critical,” Young says. “Our hope with this information-rich site and easy-to-navigate career map is that everyone interested in HI can easily access targeted resources to successfully address their needs.”

Remaining Adaptable in a Changing Field
Young points out that the HI field is rapidly changing, particularly as AI and machine learning become more ubiquitous across the health care landscape. “It’s particularly important that employees and career candidates remain adaptable,” she says. “There are so many ways in which AI and machine learning are being leveraged in HI. Among educators, AI is being used to create presentations, for example. Similarly, in health care settings, AI tools can assist in coding and summarizing information, offering a valuable resource for professionals. Everyone now is working smarter, not harder, which means that keeping pace with trends is vital. AHIMA is a great resource and support for everyone involved in this exciting field.”

— Susan Chapman, MA, MFA, PGYT, is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor.


1. Castrillon C. Why skills-based hiring in on the rise. Forbes. February 12, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2023/02/12/why-skills-based-hiring-is-on-the-rise/?sh=79af410c24a9