Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alumni Profile - Mara Daiker

Name: Mara L. Daiker (Anderson)
Year of Graduation: 2004
Current Employer: Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Chicago, IL
Position: Senior Manager, Professional Development

What are your current job duties and how did your education at The College of St. Scholastica prepare you to be successful at those duties?

As part of the professional development team I am responsible for many of the aspects of HIMSS’s career services offerings including; certification, career development, our early careerists community, our veteran’s career services initiative, eMentoring, member advancement and our awards and scholarships program. I also have oversight over our HIMSS Approved Education Partners program. 

Prior to joining HIMSS, I spent 13 years in the industry, first in a very traditional HIM department management role and then as part of an EHR applications development and management team.  Without the background I obtained through my education at CSS in the fundamentals of healthcare and business, along with communications, the ethical and legal aspects of healthcare and the IS education that is part of the core curriculum with the HIIM program I wouldn’t have been as successful as I was in these roles. 

I walked into my first role having a pretty great handle on what I should expect and the education to be confident to sit at the table with the rest of the management team, both within HIM as well as the hospital, and share with them the knowledge I had obtained over the course of my education.  I was prepared for what might come my way and was ready to utilize the resources needed to start making a difference from the beginning.  The success that I achieved in these two roles, which I really do attribute to the preparation I had at CSS, led to my involvement first as a volunteer for HIMSS at the chapter level and subsequently now in my role as a staff member within the North America office.

What do you remember best about taking HIIM classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

The true feeling that I was where I belonged, both personally and professionally.  From day one, those involved in the HIIM program showed us the “why” behind the role and its importance in the industry.  This allowed us to really believe in what we were doing and began cultivating that passion for our field.  I would also be remiss not to mention the feeling of family that was exuded by the professors in the program, it was so welcoming.  These attributes really made all the hard work not seem so much like work!

What is most rewarding about your work in HIIM?\

Mentoring others!  Mentoring was something I was lucky enough to participate in through both my previous roles, as an “extra opportunity”.  I mentored students working on their practicums and I mentored my employees through many different situations.  Now, mentoring is just what I get to do as a large part of my job and I am so lucky.  Most of the things that I work on at HIMSS are so that students and professionals can better themselves and I get to help provide the advice and tools to help them find success in this pursuit.

What topic in HIIM do you find most interesting/inspiring?

In school I loved all things legal, compliance, etc.  For a few years after graduating, I actually considered pursuing law school so that I could merge the two areas into something pretty great!  I even purchased a LSAT review guide.  And then, life happened and I started working more closely with the clinicians who were using the EHR day-to-day.  I became engrossed in understanding more about how the clinicians could benefit (and struggle) through the work that I did day-to-day.  Learning how we could work together to develop something useful for them and better for the patient was something that I truly enjoyed.  And then to take it a step further I really enjoyed the challenge that came with understanding all that data that they were putting in and how I could find it, extract it, manipulate it and share it, producing additional useful information for them also became an exciting challenge.  So, with that said, I guess I enjoy the “informatics” part of HIIM!
HIIM is an ever-changing field. What do you see coming on the horizon?

Please, refer back to my last statement!  There is so much information hidden in all the data that is out there.  I see a continued emphasis on doing something with all of this.  There are so many great things out there right now that are coming to fruition because of all this data, for example, artificial intelligence and precision medicine.  And then, to support this, things like the technology of blockchain and the emphasis on cybersecurity.  Data is opening the door to so many other aspects to this field.

What one piece of advice would you offer to current students?

Find great resources, both in-person on paper/digital that will assist you in keeping up to speed in this rapidly changing environment.  When I was graduating, ALL the talk was focused on HIPAA and how it was changing the HIM role as we knew it, but we were also smart enough to know that HIPAA was the talk of the moment, give it a year or two and there would be something new to talk about.  In the field of HIIM, there is always something new and as HIM professionals one of the greatest things we can offer to the healthcare field is to be prepared to handle whatever comes next and be a leader ready to take on these challenges.

What are your career goals in HIM?

Just as I stated above, my main goal is to always be ready to be a leader.  I want to be able to assist others as a resource, as a mentor, as a body that can help get the job done.  Whatever it is, I just want to be ready for it.  Because of this, I place a large focus on continued professional development and lifelong learning and a focus on promoting this to all whom I come to know as the more they know the more it may benefit me and the profession as a whole
What book are you currently reading for fun? 
I just finished “When Breath Becomes Air”. It was recommended to me by one of our hospitalists/medical information officers at my past organization. It is the story about a physician who finds himself on his own medical journey and the results of what he learns by becoming the patient (and so much more). It is phenomenal, a must read!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Student Profile - Katie Johnson

Katie Johnson, RHIA

Clinical Data Analyst at IBM Watson Health
M.S Health Informatics 2019

Why did you choose The College of St. Scholastica’as HI program?

I’m working full time so the flexibility that an online program gives me was a huge draw. I also love that many of the professors are leaders in their fields and even authored the textbooks we use.

Can you briefly explain your current position and a bit about your employer?

In my current position, I work with data standardization. This involves mapping our clients’ data to the SNOMED-CT, RxNorm, and LOINC ontologies. This allows our system to understand the data and produce results for ACO, PQRS, and HEDIS quality measures.

What rising topics in HIIM do you find most interesting/inspiring?

Big data is something I find fascinating. I get to witness its challenges as well as the insights that it can give health organizations in my work every day. The idea of taking a giant mess of data and making sense of it in a way that can add true value to improve healthcare is one thing that inspired me to work toward my Health Informatics degree.

What are your goals after you earn your HIIM degree/certificate from The College of St. Scholastica?

I would love to be able to apply the things I learn to do my job even better than I can now. I hope to take on more responsibilities or perhaps a role more on the analytical side. I also plan to get my CHDA (Certified Health Data Analyst) certification from AHIMA to further demonstrate my knowledge in the field.

Offer one piece of advice to potential students considering entering a HIIM Program at The College of St. Scholastica:

I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with my classmates and professors. Don’t be afraid to reach out to ask questions and network.

Last, what book are you currently reading for fun?

I’ve been on a history kick lately, so I’m reading “All the President’s Men” by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Finding your Flex, or Warming up for HIIM

We all know the story. New or updated regulations. Ever-evolving EHR software options. New reporting structures in the workplace. Opportunities with the growth of population health, analytics, value-based care. Leading professional organizations offer more training, webinars, and conferences than ever before in an effort to keep up. Stick around any HIIM-related workplace for more than five minutes and you quickly realize that change is the only constant.

With new initiatives and roles being developed all the time, health information management and informatics professionals have a wider range of jobs to walk into than ever before. The walls that define our profession have fallen more and more quickly over time, as the field that grew from the broadly-defined but singular medical secretary role to the open landscape of hundreds of career titles before us today (see the AHIMA career map here: http://hicareers.com/CareerMap/).

Although it feels overwhelming at times to see so many options available, how can we do anything but dive in headfirst? If we embrace the turbulence of change and the vast potential at our feet, our rewards will come through increased value to our employers as we meet the expanding needs of the managing healthcare information. I suspect that, if it has not already, the word that will come to define the profession is "flexible".

Really, creating this flexibility in ourselves can be an easy thing to do. Within reason, flexibility can be achieved by saying yes as often as possible. With all the opportunities that come available as we offer our expertise in new initiatives and projects, we grow in unique ways, as with new responsibility comes the need for additional learning and expertise. Specialists in narrower roles dig in on small pieces of the puzzle, generalists oversee the entire process and ensure that everyone on the boat is rowing the same direction, and many other employees fall in on that spectrum.

In considering the impact of this flexibility, look no further than the upcoming AHIMA convention to confirm the breadth and depth of our field. Currently there are 159 exhibitors attending with representation from educational institutions, consultants, vendors, and other employers. The track list for the daily presentations includes at least 25 different options, and there are forums, pre-convention workshops and other activities before the convention even officially opens. Yes, it might be a stretch to think about traveling from a session considering the expanding HIM Workforce in the Philippines and Thailand to another on data visualization, and then on to hear about documentation and workflows related to the care of LGBT patients, but limber up as the chance is there!

The most vital takeaway in all of this is that we can truly define our own path by being flexible. Keep stretching and searching until you discover the intersection of your interests and an employer's needs. It may take time to find that corner, but it's out there somewhere!

~Eric Nordgren

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reflections from a Caregiver

One of my life's greatest privileges has been serving as a primary caregiver and medical liaison for my loved ones.  As a family member and friend, it is an honor to have them share their vulnerable moments and to feel their trust.  As a health care professional, I find myself looking for ways the information could be clearer, the choices could be easier, institutional stress could be alleviated, and care could ultimately be more effective. In my work here at The College of St. Scholastica, I teach a class on end of life issues. Through that venue, discussions with my students and class visitors have enlightened me on how much I need to learn. In addition, I also find myself being forced to learn more as I care for my loved ones.

My 2017 began in the hospital, sleeping at the bedside of a dear friend, Cheryl, who served as my stepmom during my teenage years. I ended up as her health care proxy, and held her hand as she took her last breaths on this earth a week later. In the short week between, I served as one of her caregivers and as a facilitator of communication. One of many take-aways from this experience was how important it is to have a team that communicates effectively on the provider side, but also on the family and patient side. Cheryl had terminal cancer, and at the time of this hospitalization did not have an end-of-life plan and did not want to meet with the palliative care staff. I knew enough of the importance to gently guide her to listen to what the palliative care physician assistant (PA) had to say.  The palliative care PA was skilled enough to face Cheryl’s denial directly and continue the discussion. The PA spent the day with Cheryl, myself, and another close friend/caregiver, asking tough questions, providing a lot of tissues. In the end, practical and necessary do not resuscitate or intubate orders were signed. 

Cheryl retired from her lifelong work as a library director while she was in the hospital and just short of her 70th birthday.  We had not done extensive end-of-life planning with her because it had not seemed necessary, she was still young and the cancer struck her by surprise.  By contrast, I have been walking a different path with my father this past month. He is 81 and has been relatively healthy, yet over the last few years, my sister and I have spent a considerable amount of time talking through his end-of-life plans.  He has not had many medical needs, but it seemed important to be prepared as he started his ninth decade of life. In the past few months he has now been admitted to the hospital twice for relatively minor issues. He has had end-of-life discussions with us, and has a signed and prepared advanced directive. Upon reviewing his discharge paperwork, I was surprised to see on that the advance directive was not listed on file. It was not there during his admission, but wondered if the mistake was due to terminology used or his heightened anxiety level on admission. 

Both my dad and Cheryl have strong educational backgrounds with advanced degrees, and were avid readers. The communication challenges had nothing to do with their general literacy. Those issues were directly due to the complexity of health care, the intricacy of emotional issues, and the increased anxiety when confronted by an array of decisions and multiple members on the health care team. No matter what role you play in the health care industry, it is important to continually remind yourself of why you work in the field, and evaluate what you can do to improve care for the patient. This does not always equal life-saving action, but instead often means having discussions and incorporating individuals and their families and personal caregivers in the team. Increasing the quality of intense end-of-life situations can be all about spending more time listening and understanding the goals of the patient.

~Beth Fait 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alumni Profile - Laura Blabac

Name: Laura Blabac

Year of Graduation: Summer 2012
Current Employer: Prism Healthcare Partners, LLC
Position: Senior Consultant

We understand that you’ve started in a new position recently. Can you briefly explain your new role and a bit about your employer?

I’ve recently started working for a consulting firm based out of Chicago. The “technical” explanation of what I do looks like this: as a Senior Consultant, my role is to assess an organization’s “current state” and using industry standards and best practices, implement recommendations for performance improvement. As a consultant with health information management (HIM) expertise, I do this in the areas that focus on the management of HIM operations, and in the leveraging of data to help achieve strategic goals. The better explanation of what I do is: I find ways to make people’s jobs easier.

Prism Healthcare Partners, LTD., is a consulting firm specializing in assessing strategic direction and performance improvement across multiple areas in hospitals and larger healthcare organizations and academic medical centers. Assessments and subsequent performance improvement services can be applied to one or more areas, such as revenue cycle improvement, clinical documentation improvement, labor cost management, supply chain cost management, clinical performance, valuation and financial services.

Do you have any fond memories of your time in HIIM at The College of St. Scholastica?

Most of my coursework was online, therefore I missed the “in-person experience” so I especially loved the onsite portions of the Master’s program, both the initial and the closing. It was a lot of fun to meet people with whom I studied, face-to-face. I also really enjoyed working with the program professors and learning from the wealth of knowledge they have.

What do you find most rewarding about your career?

The most immediate rewarding part of my career has been the ability to direct my passion and talent for technology toward making the lives of healthcare and health information professionals easier. In the longer term, the reward I’m hoping for is to play a part in the paradigm change from disease management to health management, a shift that has significant potential to reduce costs, improve lives and to focus care resources where they’re needed most. When data and information management and governance principles are applied well in tandem with technology, the ability to achieve that will be possible.

What rising topics in the field do you find most interesting/inspiring?

I’m most inspired by topics that related to technology use, big data and analytics. The movement of health care records from paper to electronic format opens up a strong ability to improve patient care, disease management and research, and to offer operational efficiencies that support the myriad of uses that health information has. The information is there to be discovered – and I love helping people find ways to find it! The other topic I find extremely interesting is leadership and the need for health information management leaders in the executive levels. The breadth of knowledge and skill sets of health information professionals lend themselves to the ability to look at problems holistically, and through leveraging information to partner with other healthcare professionals in solving them.

Offer one piece of advice to current students:

Invest some time in thinking about what you want from your career, and don’t be afraid to let your coursework shape where you grow to. Many people start a program with a specific “job” in mind without taking into account whether that job would interest them, whehter they would be good at it, or most importantly, whether it would bring them joy in their work. (And trust me on this: there is no salary that can compensate you for not loving what you do!) During your program, take note of what subjects in HIIM you really enjoyed and really excelled at, then find the kinds of work that include those things.

Outside of work, what are your favorite hobbies?

My favorite hobbies involve going for small hikes, reading anything that my eyes fall on, and I’ve recently started to craft and love making wine-bottle and glass block decorations.

Do you have a favorite movie?

I have about 20 favorite movies in my top 10, but one of my classic favorites is The Miracle Worker (the version with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke).

What is the last book read for fun?

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

When you need to get away, what is your favorite travel destination?

Now that I travel so much, my favorite travel destination is home! Away from home, however, I love anyplace that involves lakes, forests or beaches!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Alumni Profile - Kayla Staley

Name: Kayla M. Staley (Zirbes)
Year of Graduation: 2013
Current Employer: Bronson Healthcare, Kalamazoo, MI
Position: Business Information System Analyst II, HIM

What are your current job duties and how did your education at The College of St. Scholastica prepare you to be successful at those duties?

In my current analyst role I use a variety of HIM background and diverse skills that I learned at CSS. I don’t go a day without applying something I used during my education experience and I bring unique and valuable skills to the table. One of the biggest assets I continually receive recognition for is my ability to span all aspects of patient care and bring diverse teams together. Having the ability to apply the robust HIM expertise across the health care continuum has definitely helped me excel in my current role. Further, my overall education and experience with healthcare technologies and being prepared for the evolving world of health care keeps me driving ahead for the next advancement in the field. A mindset focused on flexibility for the future and the ability to adapt has been vital to my success which was emphasized during my education at CSS.
What do you remember best about taking HIIM classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

One of my fondest memories of HIIM classes at CSS were the times we got to network and learn from successful HIM professionals. The opportunity to meet professionals and hear about their story truly helped expand my understanding of the profession and develop my understanding what the world of HIM may mean. I still connect with these professionals on questions or best practices in the industry which is definitely something that continues to serve me well. The education from Scholastica, whether it be the in person presentation or networking opportunities, are not only the moments what I remember most, but experiences is always what I find myself valuing and applying in my day to day career.

What is most rewarding about your work in HIIM?

Being in an untraditional HIM role I find leveraging my knowledge and skillset that I’ve built to be
the most rewarding part of my career. I love that my education, in combination with my experience, puts me in a very good position to apply the background of a HIM professional in a role that isn’t necessarily traditional. When I can field questions from every aspect of healthcare IT from pre-registration to billing in a diverse health care organization it is something to be proud of. Whether it is payor guidelines, legal medical record releases, deficiencies from incomplete documentation, or coding practices I have enough skills and knowledge in the full patient care cycle to be an asset to every team. Breaking down the silos and bridging the gaps between teams that were historically autonomous is no doubt the most rewarding aspect of my current career and I believe that CSS did a wonderful job preparing me not only for the silos that exist, but prepared me to challenge what used to be and make it the best it can be.

What topic in HIIM do you find most interesting/inspiring?

HIIM is an ever-changing field. In the future there is going to be a growing demand for HIM professionals in every nook and cranny of the health care industry. Not only in traditional HIM roles but in newly formed and cutting edge roles. We aren’t going to be a profession that fills open positions, we are going to be the professionals demonstrating the need for our expertise and having new positions developed to fill existing voids. One major aspect of HIIM that will see significant growth is the career path for those interested in data analytics. Not only are the analytics important, but our broad understanding of health care as not only a big picture buts at a granular level is a critical skill that HIM professionals will advance at. Being in a non-traditional role I have had the opportunity to dive into some big data and conduct analytics and not only was it fun, but I was able to apply so much of my knowledge and skillset to a variety of leadership teams that may have underestimated a HIM professionals ability to not only manipulate but understand and make meaningful findings and recommendations from big data. Being able bring recognition once again to our diverse HIM education is always a pleasure, particularly when it is something as fresh and undefined as data analytics.

What one piece of advice would you offer to current students?

Give yourself credit! Your hard work & dedication to a HIM career is setting you up for life-long success. You are well training in so much more than you even realize and your robust education will set you apart as you enter the field. Use that knowledge, keep learning throughout your career and be the force that evolves the HIM world. CSS truly trains you to be a skilled professional as you enter the workforce, regardless of what exciting HIM path you journey down initially!

What are your career goals in HIM?

As HIM continues to grow and develop so do my career goals. Starting out in the program I wanted a health care management career path… now I’m spinning full speed into the world of EHR development and implementation. When I consider what my career goals are they are no long having a big office and decision-making power in an organization but rather sitting in a room full of diverse people passionate about creating a platform that provides the ultimate patient experience. If I were to nail down my career goals to one main goal I would have to say over the life of my career I hope to further decommission the silos of health care and build up the knowledge of the HIM expertise in all aspects of health care. Whether that be in an untraditional role or in my once-desired management role, I will continue to learn and grow the profession in every step of my career to make sure HIM professionals are able to receive the recognition and display their expertise in whatever career path they may decide on. We are such a strong profession and we need to make a firm stand that we can not only adapt but flourish as the world of health care continues to evolve.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I love reading! Whether it be a funny novel (such as the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich) or another ad hoc course that I can take just because (Who doesn’t love Doc C’s MOOCs?). I always enjoy an escape from my day-to-day reality and learning or experiencing something new. I also recently became a certified scuba diver so that is quickly excelling to the top of my list of favorite things to do!

What is your favorite movie?

I enjoy a lot of movies so that’s hard to pick… But I would pick watching NCIS all day, every day over any movie!

What book are you currently reading for fun?

My current Master’s course is for data analytics so while some may not consider it fun to others, I love it!

What is your favorite travel destination?

I enjoy traveling and would love to do more! While at Scholastica I went to both India and Africa during J-term breaks. When I plan travel I most enjoy to go to destinations that will expose me to a new kind of living and really bring me back to reality of how blessed I am. I recently returned from Florida for some fun in the sun but my next big vacation will be a trip to Fiji to dive the Great Barrier Reef and visit Australia!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MHIMA 2017 Recap - Stars & CSS!

A couple of weeks ago, we had the great fortune to spend a few days at the Mystic Lake Convention Center in Prior Lake, Minnesota with a group of wonderful colleagues, alumni, students, and friends. The occasion was the annual Minnesota Health Information Management Association (MHIMA) Conference, and simply put, it was quite the event.

Many of our alumni stay in the Minnesota area, and many invest their time in MHIMA. The succession of the organization's presidents shows how dedicated and involved these alumni are! This
Double Trouble: Christina Wallner & Ryan Johns (MHIMA Presidents)
year, Laura Blabac served as past-president, Kristi Lundgren as president, Christina Wallner as president-elect, and Ryan Johns is now the president-elect from the 2017 voting. All are CSS HIIM alums! And that's not including current treasurer Suzy Johnson and current secretary Brandi Bierbrauer. We can't forget AHIMA board member and HIIM Faculty member Danika Brinda's delivery of the AHIMA ethics presentation and remarks from the national perspective. Thank you to all for your service, you represent the profession so very well. And the session speakers! By a count, nine of the breakout sessions on Thursday featured CSS faculty, staff, or alumni. Incredible.

(We should note, too, that we were quite impressed by the karaoke skills of the president-elect, Ryan Johns, that were on display at the vendor reception the first night.  We had no idea! As for the karaoke skills of faculty members Ryan Sandefer and David Marc, they were exactly what we expected...)

Scholarship Winners Alison Hoeper & Mikaela Vadnais
Congratulations are also due to the scholarship winners from the conference, as juniors Alison Hoeper and Mikaela Vadnais each earned an award. The Rising Star award (new this year) went to the aforementioned Brandi Bierbrauer, and the Outstanding Student award to graduating senior Emily Jansen, who had quite a week as she received the CSS Scholar-Athlete award on Monday night before the conference. And finally, the Distinguished Member award went to Marsha Holey, who is also an alum.  Wow.

Emily Jansen, 2017 MHIMA Outstanding Student

The conference also produced a new high for department social media presence.  A short video, featuring faculty and staff strutting in our stylish tuxedo-shirts, went as close to viral as we've been yet! If you have a chance, stop by our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to check the video out. If you missed out or just enjoyed the classiness, the tuxedo shirts will be in rotation again at the AHIMA National Conference in Los Angeles this October.

What else? Oh, of course! Thursday night featured a superb reception for the attending CSS students and alumni. By our count, at least 70 people were in attendance; networking, socializing, reconnecting, and celebrating. We love to see everyone and hear about your journeys, and can't wait for the next time we see you all! As a note, if you did not get the invite, please make sure that you update your contact information with the CSS Alumni Association (https://www.css.edu/alumni.html) and send your current information to our administrative assistant Diana Wark, dwark@css.edu. Thanks!
Alumni Reception in full swing!

Phew. It was a tiring three days, and reflecting on the time is nearly as exhausting. Maybe it's a good thing MHIMA only comes once a year? Although October and the National Convention is not that far off...