Close Server: KOPWWW05 | Not logged in

Welcome to Health Care POV | sign in | join
HIM Education: Prepare for Healthcare’s Future

The State of Health Information Education in 2013

Published August 28, 2013 12:51 PM by HIM Professionals

By Ryan Sandefer

We recently returned from an exciting few days at the American Health Information Management Association's (AHIMA) Assembly on Education Symposium and Faculty Development Institute in Baltimore. A mouthful for sure, but it was great insight into what will be driving Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM) over the coming academic year. The key takeaway? It's all about data, data and more data.

A New Vision For Health Information Curriculum

Much of the discussion at the AHIMA Assembly focused on how all three higher education pathways are being revised in 2013 to put ‘big data' at their heart. Associates degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees have all been changed with an inherent recognition of how huge amounts of data and the analysis of that data will be at the center of every level of HIIM education.

The content domains and subdomains of all three pathways, as well as their taxonomic level, have been mapped to emerging HIIM roles. A good example of this ‘mapping' is the expansion of the domain of Data Governance (or the accuracy of data as it is collected, integrated, used and shared). As the quantity of healthcare data explodes, it is important the quality of that data is assured. Too often in the recent past, electronic medical records (EHRs) have been filled with poor data for the sake of meeting quotas. This does not help anyone and our students. The next generation of HIIM professionals need to be the torchbearers of quality over quantity.

Big Data Is The New BIG Focus

Big data will be at the heart of healthcare in the U.S. going forward, also quid pro quo big data must be at the heart of all healthcare education. HIIM curriculum will focus on data management this coming year, and 2013's students can expect to experience manipulating large data sets in the classroom.

The use of statistics, data analytics techniques, and the understanding of computer programming languages are increasingly important for HIIM students. Healthcare software systems are notorious for making it easy for individuals to enter data but extremely difficult to get it out. While electronic health records are improving in their ability to analyze data, students are now expected to know more about databases and programming.

Dipping Into Federal Data Mines

On his first day in office in 2009, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. It was a pledge for federal departments to share large and meaningful datasets of information, and was soon followed by the launch of, a treasure-trove of big data. Today, there are thousands of great datasets available through the website, available to the public for free. It's searchable and includes a dizzying amount of healthcare data that can be downloaded and used in the classroom.

At the College of St. Scholastica this year, we're taking the data sets into the classroom and using them to teach data management and data analytics. For example, we'll use data collected from the Medicare program and asking our students to manage, analyze and manipulate that data to get a grip on what big data looks like and how it can be used to understand population health. We are also having students analyze the publically available EHR Incentive Program data (Meaningful Use attestation information). Not only is this data pertinent for understanding current federal regulation, it is also BIG data.

Expect Big Data, and Demand Big Data

If you're a student about to embark on your health information management education this year, be prepared to focus on big data sets. The clear message coming out of the AHIMA symposium was that faculty must plan classes around using data in the right place and at the right time for the best outcome. Health Information Management students are being trained to be knowledge workers, so they must be able to turn this big data into information, and ultimately knowledge.

If your classes aren't touching big data sets, you should request it. Every job in healthcare information management will involve some level of big data mining and manipulation. So ask yourself, what's the relationship between the class you're taking and data analytics? The data is all there and free to access. We just need to find the pertinent information to make it useful.

Ryan Sandefer is chair of the department of Health Informatics and Information Management, The College of St. Scholastica.


I am not a healthcare professional but have had a long standing interest in the healthcare field, serving as a hospital volunteer for almost a year, and I believe that HIM would be an excellent match for my aptitudes and interests.  I am hoping this is not an inappropriate question, but would just like some idea of my prospects as an entry-level employee.

Donna Zappulla February 24, 2014 9:48 PM
White Plains NY


That is not what I would like to do. I just need to find a way to update my skills in the EHR IT, confidentiality, and other areas that are pertinent to finding a lucrative position in HIM. AHIMA offered a class from Sept through Dec on the EHR and confidentiality, but I did not know about them in time to enroll. I called AHIMA recently and they are not sure if they will offer these classes again. I loved doing what I did, but I am unsure where to go from here.

Linda Siverling December 29, 2013 8:28 AM
Williamsport MD

Have you considered getting your RHIA?

Rachel December 28, 2013 2:56 PM

I am an RHIT who worked in LTC for 10 years and was laid off due to downsizing because of the EHR. I have had some health issues that have kept me out of the HI work force for the past 3 years.  My health has improved and I would like to update my skills in order to get back to work. The college that I received my AA degree from will not allow me to take just classes that I feel would be necessary in order to do this. I don't know where to turn in order to obtain these skills. Any suggestions?

Linda Siverling December 26, 2013 10:32 PM
Williamsport MD

What is meaningful use according to the EHR program?

candace angebrandt, HIT - Student, Davenport September 13, 2013 1:00 PM
Grand Rapids MI

Thanks for the comments to this blog post, which has a sole purpose of sparking discussion on hot topics.

Regarding the role of nurses transition into HIM, there are extensive opportunities in this field and they are not limited to coding. While coding provides a good opportunity to utilize their clinical expertise, the areas of clinical documentation improvement, nursing informatics, and quality management are other areas where nursing skills could be used.  Cost is always a concern with higher education. If individuals are interested in testing the waters, I would recommend looking into the ONC Community College Curricula programs, which are providing six month certificate programs in HIT that are subsidized. While much of the scholarships have been given, organizations are making this content available online inexpensively. Check it out.

Regarding the term "quota"--good catch. I was intending this line to be somewhat polemical. While there are not literally quotas on the level of data, information has been collected without much thought regarding how to use it down stream. Data has been extremely hard to get out of these systems.

The curriculum that was outlined at this conference is simply proposed. It will be commented on, revised, and finally approved sometime in the next six months. Moreover, academic organizations will have ample time to prepare for these major changes. Nevertheless, I encourage students to begin preparing now for future needs, including taking advantage of the resources that are available for free online. Knowledge is power.

Ryan Sandefer

Ryan Sandefer, Health Informatics and Information Management - Assistant Professor and Chair, College of St. Scholastica September 11, 2013 10:01 PM
Duluth MN

reat direction for HIM!  I do have a concern for those who followed the 2009 HIM criteria for Associate and Bachelor programs that did not receive the big data focus nor the advantage of in-class EHR training.  Is it feasible to allow earlier graduates from those programs and recently certified RHIT's to grandfather into this new, cutting edge training?  It certainly would make them more relevant to the industry and to employers.   We know there is a shortage of candidates truly qualified in HIM data management, and every opportunity should be given to those who have most recently invested in their HIM education. Imagine the impact on the HIM environment if those recent graduates and recently certified RHITs are able to bring this big data focus to the table.

Sheri September 10, 2013 3:02 PM
Atlanta GA

I am an HIM student in my first year of study and I was struck by your description of "big data." This is a term I haven't come across yet but after reading your post, I'm certain it will shortly. I was also effected by your observation that a "quota" of data is being required. As a former English major I am well versed in the benefits of good editing but wonder if the same rules can translate to HI given that deciding what to keep and what to toss could end up being a costly mistake.

Patricia, HIM - student, Davenport University September 10, 2013 2:32 PM
Grand Rapids MI

I am a Registered Nurse who can no longer practice beside nursing due to health reasons.  I have not had proper training for coding but am doing coding currently.  I feel that older nurses could transition into Coding effectively if proper training for us could be offered at a much more reasonable cost.  What do you think?

Deborah, Coding - RN, Datafied August 31, 2013 7:20 PM
Wilmington NC

leave a comment

To prevent comment spam, please type the code you see below into the code field before submitting your comment. If you cannot read the numbers in the image, reload the page to generate a new one.

Enter the security code below: