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 ( and send your current information to our administrative assistant Diana Wark, 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...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

myPHR: a CSS Student Service Learning Consumer Education Campaign

When was your last tetanus shot? Do your family members know your blood type? When was your last mammogram or prostate exam? Do you have advanced directives completed? Is YOUR PHR in order?

Personal health records (PHR) often get confused with patient portals. While electronic portal access is very convenient as a patient, and you may in fact be able to answer the above questions using just that, it only tells one specific part of your health story. What about your last visit to the dentist? How many times have you seen the chiropractor? When was your last eye exam? Any specialist visits this year outside your provider network? Do you get the drift? Our PHR is made up of every provider who tends to our healthcare needs, head to toe, inside and out.

Twelve years ago, AHIMA launched the myPHR campaign with the intention of educating the health consumer population about the imperative need for patients to be proactive in collecting and collating their health journey as it occurs. I appreciated being at the pilot “train the trainer” group session as it is and remains a topic about which I am most passionate. The initiative enjoyed some recognizable attention as John Walsh, host and creator of America’s Most Wanted, did a public service announcement for AHIMA and the myPHR webite. Currently, the myPHR website hosts a series of “Empowered Patient” videos in the myPHR video library, featuring two personalities from the daytime talk show The Doctors, Drs. Travis Stork and Jim Sears. 

Shortly after my own training, I introduced the presentation into the curriculum in the Fundamentals of HIM course. It became a concrete vehicle for student-service learning, by assignment, facilitating the students to educate audiences of their choosing. It’s been amazing and equally rewarding to read and hear the student's final reports. A sample of this year’s audiences include Boy Scout Troop 31, Denfeld HS Medical Careers class, Rainbow Senior Center, Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS) and even nineteen of the sisters of the Benedictine Monastery here on the campus of CSS. This year, the students reached 161 new healthcare consumers with their important message of patient empowerment. Patients gain valuable knowledge, allowing them to make truly informed healthcare decisions and communicate clearly with their providers because they have a longitudinal compilation of their personal health record.

I continue to seek avenues to support the progress of this vital message; at the end of April I presented again at the MHIMA meeting. At the same time, four of our HIM students (pictured below) presented during Scholarship and Creative Arts Week at the Student Projects and Posters session, and they will also participate in the CSS Health Fair this coming fall.  We are so very proud of the important message that our students continue to share with healthcare consumers everywhere, whether on campus or in their home town; the myPHR message is alive!

~Madonna LeBlanc

HIM sophomore students (l-r): Jordan Lyaruu, Candace Nelson,
Logan Johnson and Emma Axtell-Peters

HIM students Candace Nelson and Jordan Lyaruu explain the myPHR project 
to the Dean of the School of Health Science, Dr. Bruce Loppnow

Monday, April 24, 2017

AHIMA Takes the Hill

At the end of March 2017, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) held their annual Advocacy Symposium and Capitol Hill Day.  In the midst of the Cherry Festival and full blown cherry blossoms, representatives from 48 Component State Associations (CSAs) met up to discuss topics important to health information management professionals and the healthcare industry.  
At the Advocacy Symposium, discussion surrounded the HIPAA and the continued process of supporting patient rights under HIPAA in the ever-changing healthcare industry.  Deven McGraw, Deputy Director of Health Information Privacy for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), spoke about the importance of patient access to health information, the reduction of barriers to access, the current HIPAA audits, and plans for the future.  The OCR and DHHS continue to put resources and tools out to the healthcare industry to support the modernization of the HIPAA regulations in the new electronic world!   
Cora Han, Senior Attorney in the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), spoke about how the FTC continues to address privacy and security concerns, in addition to issues with non-HIPAA compliant entities.  It was a very informative speech that provided great insight to how DHHS and the FTC work together to ensure privacy and security protections to consumers of healthcare!
We ended the day with a great presentation regarding how to disrupt healthcare and learned about how to "Flip the Clinic."  It is a great concept that has gotten a lot of discussion on social media platforms such as Twitter. Check out more information regarding Flip the Clinic -
The day after the Advocacy Symposium, the AHIMA Representation charged Capitol Hill to discuss two important topics facing the health information community: 1) National Patient Identifier and 2) the HIM profession.  With the change of leadership due to the recent presidential election, it was important to focus on the continued conversation in regard to moving towards a national patient identifier, a key component in supporting interoperability between healthcare information systems.  A specific solution was not being discussed, but rather the dialogue centered around continued support and keeping language out of the Appropriations Bill that would block the conversation about a National Patient Identifier.  
The second conversation on Capitol Hill informed legislators of who we are as health information professionals, and what expertise and support we can bring to the conversations in the healthcare legislation areas. It is important for our legislators to know about us as new issues and proposed laws and regulations emerge.  The goal is for them to remember our profession and reach out to the HIM community to support legislation!
Overall, it was an extremely successful couple of days. AHIMA and the CSA Representation had great conversations with positive outcomes.  We definitely made our point, continuing our success and reputation in the legislative environment. The other highlight of the trip was seeing the beautiful cherry blossom trees in full bloom!  If you haven’t seen them in person, put it on your list of things to see.  It is definitely worth the trip!

~Danika Brinda

Monday, April 17, 2017

Senior Student Coordinates Marrow Registry Event

Senior student Amy North is helping to organize an event on the CSS campus at the end of April. We were fortunate to catch up with her electronically to get the scoop on the preparations.

At the end of April, there will be an event that you’ve been working on with DKMS. What do
people need to know about the organization and event?

DKMS is a bone marrow registry organization that was founded in Germany in 1991 by Dr. Peter Harf, after he lost his wife to leukemia.  He founded the organization hoping to help every blood cancer patient find a matching donor.  At the time the foundation was started, there were only 3,000 potential stem cell donors available to provide a transplant in Germany.  Just one year after DKMS was founded this number increased to 68,000!  Since then, the organization has continued to register, counting 6 million donors worldwide, and has given over 50,000 people a second chance at life.
The event happening at St. Scholastica is to register more potential donors, and will be taking place Tuesday, April 25 from 9-5 in the Student Union.  The registration process takes only 5-10 minutes and involves filling out a registration form and performing a cheek swab.  The screening process for donors is very thorough.  Less than 1% of people who register are chosen as a potential match. Therefore, DKMS strives to get more and more donors, which is why we are having a drive on campus.
How did you hear about the group and decide to become involved as a coordinator?

I received an email from a DKMS employee that was forwarded onto students by the HIIM department, asking for a volunteer to coordinate the drive.  I was very eager to help because bone marrow donation has always been an interest and passion of mine.  Merissa Edwards, a CSS Athletic Department staff member, received stem cells from a DKMS donor in 2014 and DKMS is helping to unite Merissa with her donor, from Germany, for the very first time.  Merissa will be introducing her donor at the CSS athletic sports awards banquet on Monday, April 24th and the bone marrow donor drive will take place the next day to help raise awareness and encourage others to join the registry to help others searching for their donor match.
CSS has held bone marrow drives with DKMS since 2008 and has registered 1,323 potential donors, 71 potential matches, and 14 donors who went on to donate their stem cells to give a blood cancer/blood disease patient a second chance at life!
What (if any) goals do you and the organization hope to meet?

It is our goal to have 150 people register to be potential donors.  In past years at CSS, there have been over 100 donors and we are hoping with Merissa’s personal story and tie to the CSS community that there will be even more people interested in registering.
We are also hoping to receive financial donations during the drive.  While there is no cost for someone to register as a donor, there is a cost associated with testing to see if the potential donor is a match.  Because DKMS is a non-profit organization, they rely on donations to make this possible, and we hope to help offset these costs with any financial contributions we receive.
What have you found to be most rewarding about coordinating the event?

As a freshman at St. Scholastica, I registered to be a potential bone marrow donor.  I could not say no to registering, knowing that there was a possibility I could help give someone a second chance at life.  There are so many diseases and disorders with little or no treatment options, but in this case, there is something that can be done!  Blood cancer is one of the leading causes in cancer deaths around the world and it kills more children in the United States than any other disease. There is an opportunity to change that by registering to be a donor.  I am very excited to see others make the decision to be donors and help spread the word about this life-changing organization!

Do you plan to continue to be involved with DKMS?

I would love to continue to be involved with DKMS!  I hope to work for an organization that has a strong belief in its mission and is making a difference in the world, so to work for DKMS would be a dream come true!  However, even if I do not go on to work for the organization, they are always looking for more donors and financial contributions, so I hope to coordinate more bone marrow swab drives in the future and to continue to spread the word about DKMS and bone marrow registry.

Thanks to Amy, and we hope to see strong attendance at the April 25 event!