Students: Enhance Your Prospects by Becoming an Inter-departmental Expert
By Ryan Sandefer, chair of the department of health informatics and information management, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minn.
One of the most important aspects of the modern health information revolution is the ability to connect and share data across healthcare disciplines. Healthcare decision-making needs good information, and that has to come from multiple departments - the provider, the nurse, the specialist, the therapist, and the assistant. This is why any health information professional needs to be an inter-professional expert. Demonstrable experience in this area will enhance your job prospects.
Inter-professional Data Key to Success
As care providers switch to the Accountable Care model, they must access diverse information to make sure care is administered efficiently, and data exchange will be a prerequisite for success. Using a EHR, a physician or nurse is able to download hospital discharge summaries, see a record of emergency department visits, and access medication lists. Practices also use their EHRs to initiate lab orders, view results, and prescribe medications and therapy.
The hub of this data management, the health information specialist, has to have a good grasp on how each department manages and handles data.
This inter-professional ability needs to be nurtured in the classroom. Luckily, for many health information students, there are many opportunities where you can work with and engage various healthcare professionals, whether on campus or in the local community.
Students Working with Professionals
The College of St. Scholastica just wrapped up a project that allowed our health information management students to work with its college's occupational therapy and physical therapy clinics on issues of data privacy and security.
The students were able to walk through the clinics' daily practice and assess their physical, technical, and administrative safeguards for patients' data privacy and security. This helped the students learn how OT and PT professionals document patient data. They were able to discuss their findings with the practice, which helped the clinics better safeguard protected health information. It was a win-win for our students and for the clinics.
We also recently completed a projected focused on the use of personal health records (PHR) by vulnerable populations. The project was in collaboration with our social work department. Students worked with practicing health professionals across the healthcare spectrum - HIM, social work, nurses, and physicians.
The students developed and implemented systems that allowed PHRs to be populated for patients with developmental disabilities. This population has a high rate of ER visits, so it's useful information for providers and can help them triage patients appropriately.
How You Can Become an Inter-professional Expert
If you want to become an inter-departmental expert, many opportunities exist on campus and in your community. The key is to make the right connections.
- Volunteering: Find community projects in your campus' city. Speak to your campus affairs or careers office about what is going on in your healthcare community. Alumni relations also may be able to connect you with professionals working in the local community.
- Faculty mentoring: Your department's faculty or other department's faculty should be more than happy to discuss potential research projects such as those detailed above.
- Funding: You might be surprised to find that there student research dollars are available to develop healthcare and community projects. Again, speak to your faculty members, or just Google it.
- Bridge departments: Suggest ways in which your health information department can work with other campus departments. For example, we have organization called SSHIP. It's a student-run organization with faculty reps that strive to bring different departments together. They run networking events, dinners, and social events where different students and faculty can talk, collaborate and identify needs, and develop projects through the year. It allows students to better understand what other professionals do, and it shows us how curricula can be developed to incorporate other disciplines.
The future of health information will rely on smart professionals understanding every part of the healthcare system. Students who can show employers that they have experience working with different professionals will be the future leaders of our industry.