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The transition from paper to electronic medical records has revolutionized how healthcare systems enter, maintain and analyze information regarding patients, diseases, medications, work flow and quality improvement.
This change continues to yield jobs in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, insurance and software companies. Those who work in health information management (HIM) as well as educators see a bright future for those who want to enter the field as managers as well as those who want to climb this career ladder.
It's An Electronic World
Leah Heublein has climbed that ladder at Park Nicollet Health Services (www.parknicollet.com), where she is now HIM director. "When I started with Park Nicollet 10 years ago, they already had electronic medical records," Heublein says. "But we still live in a paper and an electronic world."
As the organization prepares to upgrade its system next year, it will continue to evolve away from paper. "It's really exciting work because health information management gets involved in a lot of conversions of where items are residing now and where are they going to go in the new record," Heublein explains.
Colleges Expand HIM Programming
Area colleges have been expanding programs to educate the next generation of HIM workers. The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth (www.css.edu), which has the oldest medical records baccalaureate degree program in the country, has added on-campus and online baccalaureate and master's level health information and informatics programs as the field has exploded.
Dunwoody is blending its computer science program with management and healthcare for a four-year HIM degree as well as a baccalaureate completion program for students who already have HIM associate degrees, according to Carla Pogliano, manager of the college's Health Information Management program.
Dunwoody will also offer medical coding and billing programs in the fall. "What we have is a laddering program and different options for the needs of individual learners," Pogliano says.
Good Employment Outlook
"There are all kinds of areas like medical coding, quality improvement, decision support, reimbursement support and clinical analysis," explains Kathy LaTour, chair of the college's Healthcare Information and Informatics Management Department. "Master's degree graduates are getting more administrative-level jobs in healthcare facilities," at salaries ranging from $60,000 to $100,000.
"The job market looks very strong over a long period of time," LaTour adds. "A lot of the federal stimulus money has been going into the development of health information technology, particularly in rural settings."