Health Information Technology: New Careers for New Technology

Davenport University Officials Accept Building Michigan Health Care Workforce Award

As electronic medical and health records become more common, health information management professionals are becoming a growing part of the health care workforce. Davenport University’s Health Information Management Program was awarded a 2012 Building Michigan’s Health Care Workforce Award by the Michigan Health Council.

There has been a tremendous amount of change in health care during the Michigan Health Council’s 70-year existence. Health care information technology promises to bring more change, and more possibilities, in the future.

Below is an interview with TJ Hunt, the Associate Dean of Health Information Management at Davenport University. Learn more about this program at www.davenport.edu.

Q: What makes a health information management degree different from regular information technology fields?

A: Health information management programs are a hybrid of all three components in the title, encompassing health, technology, and business aspects in the curriculum. Studies include anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and medical terminology, as well as technology focused courses in database, statistics, electronic health records, and information systems. Accounting, legal, human resource, management, leadership, and project management courses are also integrated. The result is a professional who knows the business case and understands the medical content of the data that technology is being used to manage.

Only programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Informatics and Information Management programs (CAHIIM) qualify students to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam. There are only two universities in Michigan (and about 50 nationwide) offering CAHIIM accredited bachelor degrees whose graduates are eligible to sit for the RHIA.

Q: How has Davenport been able to develop one of the largest HIM programs in the country in such a short time span?

A: Davenport University’s HIM bachelor degree was accredited by CAHIIM in 2008. The program was designed to deliver accessible and affordable education to both traditional age students and adult students who were working and/or changing careers. Students can take the program entirely online, entirely in-seat in Grand Rapids, Livonia, or Saginaw, or a mix & match combination of what fits their schedule best.

One desirable feature is the ability to complete a flexible practicum schedule at a healthcare facility, as opposed to a traditional 6 or 8 week 40-hour a week internship which is not possible for most working students.

DU is also the nation’s largest user of the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) Virtual Lab – simulating electronic medical records. Davenport’s tuition is among the lowest of not-for-profit private universities in Michigan and even lower than some of the public universities – a tuition reduction agreement with the Michigan Hospital Association (MHA) also is also a great benefit to employees of MHA member organizations. The result has been the delivery of a quality, flexible HIM program that is both accessible and affordable.

Q: Davenport HIM graduates have a 100% pass rate for the RHIA exam. Why should graduates get certified in this field and what makes your program so successful?

A: There are many areas of healthcare dealing technology and data. Graduates of a CAHIIM accredited program have undergone a standard curriculum which is required to adapt each year in preparing future professionals for success in a changing healthcare environment.

The RHIA exam demonstrates to employers a competence in the mixture of clinical, technology, and management domains. Employers and HIM professionals assert credentials are valued by employers and lead to career enhancement and increased salary. More information can be found at http://www.ahima.org/certification/whygetcertified.aspx

Davenport’s programs have been successful by investing in faculty with actual experience in the profession, development for faculty, updating curriculum constantly to match the needs of industry, and offering opportunities for students to use actual industry software through the AHIMA Virtual Lab.

Q: Will health technology and information concepts find their way into other health profession’s curriculum?

A: Health information is used by every profession, in every facility or office, in every operation. Even units we don’t often think of; dietary needs and allergies of patients would need to be known by those preparing, organizing, and delivering meals and facility management/housekeeping would need to know when patients have been discharged to prepare the rooms for the next patient. There are many roles to play in patient care and all utilize some type of health information.

Clinicians such as physicians, nurses, and therapists all document care and increasingly are learning about recording and accessing information electronically. Many educational programs are incorporating technology into their curriculums.

Q: How could other professionals incorporate more information management concepts into their education?

A: Certainly learning about technology itself and electronic records is a common application. Going beyond that step an overall knowledge of information needs of the many parties involved in healthcare and the inter-relatedness of those contributing to patient care can shed light on the what and why of information management. It can prepare future professionals to work in multi-disciplinary teams for the good of the patient. Healthcare has very specialized roles and the big picture of information management by all benefits the patient.

Just as quality and safety are everyone’s responsibility, good information for patient care now and in the future is a team effort as well.

Q: In what ways will health information management graduates change health care in the future?

The healthcare environment in the United States and abroad continues to become more and more complex. This applies not only in the clinical diagnostic and treatment aspect, but in the legal, financial, technical, political areas, and more.

Coordination of these factors requires professionals who can “connect the dots” to support the best patient care possible. This could be ensuring accessible information to clinicians during care, managing data for decisions in planning or quality improvement for future care, or contributing to the organizations financial health through improved documentation and medical coding.

Health information management professionals aim to manage data with technology, knowing the business reasons for the data and what it actually means to clinicians and administrators. The end result is improvement in patient care through greater efficiency and leveraging information for better decisions. This is a driver behind the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

More information can be found at www.ahima.org, www.hicareers.com, and www.davenport.edu