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HIM Education: Prepare for Healthcare’s Future

Learning On The Job

Published February 17, 2014 11:16 AM by HIM Professionals

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

Health Information Management is often cited as one of this decade's ‘Hot Jobs' and journalists love to single it out as a growth area everyone should be considering. It's easy to see why they pick out our profession.

The authors of a recent study published in the journal Industrial Relations found that health IT job postings, which are a key indicator of demand, have tripled as a share of the broader healthcare job postings since 2007. As I've mentioned in previous ADVANCE Blog posts, health organizations are increasingly relying on information professionals to manage big data. HIM professionals are in demand.

The problem is that demand for highly trained professionals is currently outweighing the pool of available talent. The latest Workforce Survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that half of the healthcare organizations surveyed placed an IT initiative on hold due to a shortage of qualified staff.

Therein lies the opportunity for employees and employers to make up this shortfall and begin filling all these crucial jobs.

Opportunity To Learn On The Job

Many companies have professional development perks available to employees, enabling participants to learn the latest health information management and informatics trends and skills.

Results from the same HIMSS survey show that 60 percent of healthcare provider organizations and 64 percent of vendor organizations offer their employees professional development opportunities. Many companies offer paid tuition and also pay association membership dues.

At the College of St. Scholastica, we offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in health informatics and information management online. Approximately 80% of our online HIM students begin their educational program having over a year of healthcare experience. They know that furthering their education helps them access better jobs and marshal higher wages. This information is backed up by a recent report released by the American Health Information Management Association.

For employees, the benefits of continued education are significant. Those who master data analytics, understand the value of interoperability in health organizations, and remain ahead of the technology curve, are far more likely to achieve promotion or find more impressive positions elsewhere. In short, these employees become invaluable teammates. Thanks to the national revolution that's happening in healthcare, there are job opportunities from coast to coast.

And for employers, the value of continued education is equally substantial. Health organizations that emphasize ongoing education are able to achieve their IT goals with fewer obstacles. Additionally, human resources departments save time and money when they cultivate talent within their organizations versus hiring new people.

Try Before You Buy

A new, progressive model of continuing education is Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Available in nearly every field of study, MOOCs are hosted online and can accommodate an unlimited amount of students. They are free and open to anyone, and we recommend anyone who is unsure about investing in an online HIM course to try a MOOC first. We just created a health data analytics MOOC, one of the first of its kind. The course is self-paced and designed to be completed within eight weeks. It also earns the student American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) professional development credits.

This March we will be offering a MOOC on SNOMED CT. The course will cover background information on the terminology, benefits of using it, challenges associated with implementing it, and some a bit more on the advanced topic of mapping SNOMED CT terms to other classification systems. The course will be taught by Rita A. Scichilone, MHSA, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, former Senior Advisor for Global Standards at AHIMA and current Board Member for the IHTSDO, the organization that owns and maintains SNOMED CT. 

MOOCs may not be usurping traditional higher education institutions quite yet, but for those who want a taste of online education or want to gain some knowledge on the job, they are a great resource.

Evolving Educational Opportunities

Just as healthcare continues to evolve, so does education. In addition to traditional degrees, there are also industry certifications. For example, AHIMA offers a host of certifications, depending on your preferred category of professional development. If you want to stay abreast of the ICD-10 transition, you might become an Approved ICD-10 Trainer. Or, if you're interested in managing and analyzing patient health data, you could pursue a Certified Health Data Analyst credential from AHIMA.

The blistering pace of HIT reform is not going to slow anytime soon. Talented, well-educated health informatics professionals will be valued among all health organizations.

I encourage you to capitalize on this transition by seeking out continuing education courses. The health informatics community has developed wonderful resources to help us grow. We're all students in this evolving field.


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posted by HIM Professionals


Once you finish the on line classes will you be able to get a good paying job in the same field. A lot of employers do not want college students who do not have the experience. So how can this change the employers mind.

robin young, cashier September 13, 2014 5:06 PM
brewer ME

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