Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Are You Going to Measure That?

Dr. David Marc
In the wake of the recent spring commencement, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my teaching and the achievements of my students (in addition to our BS and MS students in HIM, the first group of MS Health Informatics students graduated from CSS last Saturday!) I teach numerous classes that require students to evaluate previously published studies, datasets, or technology, and I’m often asking students to answer a single question over and over again….“How are you going to measure that?”

This single question has wide application in healthcare: how will you measure patient outcomes, the impact of new technology, cost effectiveness? Despite easily being able to generate many versions of the question, these queries are not easily answered.

However, the question reaches well beyond healthcare. During the commencement ceremony, I listened as my students were called to receive their diplomas.  While waving to the students and celebrating their achievement, I began to ponder this question: “How are they going to measure this?” As graduates of our programs how will they determine the effects, the opportunity, and the challenges that this degree will offer them?

The most obvious gauge is simply knowledge. The coursework and methodologies learned in earning this degree will afford students the knowledge to be successful in their careers. They now have a deeper understanding of healthcare, data, analytical methods, project management and empirical approaches. This alone is measurable.

The second mark, of course, relates to money. Graduates from baccalaureate and graduate programs will likely earn more money because of their degree and the job opportunities that become available. These things are measurable.

You can also measure the friends they have made, the people they have met, and the experiences they have had over the course of completing their degree. You can measure their personal gratification and the recognition from their family. The last piece was easily observable in the look in mothers’ and fathers’ eyes as their child walked across the commencement stage, in the awe of children seeing a parent achieve something great, and in the continued encouragement and congratulations from spouses. These things are measurable.

So if you are a graduate and hear that this achievement is immeasurable, kindly disagree and explain that the measures are quite obvious. Look around you! Look at the people that have supported you in the past and will continue to support you in the future: faculty, friends, family, and even strangers that recognize your achievement. These are effortless assessments. Look inside you! Look at the knowledge, the sense of achievement, personal gratification, and the level of passion that you have for your profession. These things, too, are easy to measure.

Let’s not forget this simple question and continue to consider "How are we going to measure that?" Finally, let’s thank everyone who has ever had any measurable impact on our achievements.

Congratulations to all of our graduates!!!

~David Marc

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Alumni Profile - Emily Morley

Name: Emily Morley, RHIA
Year of Graduation: 2012

Current Employer: Shriners Hospitals for Children - Chicago
Position: Manager, HIM & HIPAA Privacy Officer

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 our professors at CSS always told us in class, “you will wear many hats as an HIM professional.” This is definitely the case in my current role, as my job duties include managing the HIM department, working as HIPAA Privacy Officer of the hospital, acting as a CDI Specialist support, and providing oversight of implementation of policies and procedures regarding health information. Further responsibilities include deficiency reporting and statistics, new provider and resident orientation, state and JCAHO reporting for accreditation, and just about anything else that could fall under those umbrellas.

My education from The College of St. Scholastica more than prepared me for success; our valued instructors taught us to be versatile above anything else. They did not focus on one or two areas of expertise within the HIIM realm, but rather introduced us to all the various areas of our degree. This was also helpful in determining my future career path as I cannot thank my professors enough for providing me the ability to adapt to such a dynamic profession.

What is most rewarding about your work in HIIM?
 Working collaboratively with various departments to improve patient care is the most rewarding aspect of this position. Between working with risk management, medical staff, and quality assurance, no day is ever the same. I love the variety. As an HIM professional, I am tasked with making a significant contribution to the hospital’s performance. I enjoy having a seat at that table.

HIIM is an ever-changing field. What do you see coming on the horizon?
 I feel that HIPAA auditing and compliance is currently, and will continue, to hit entities hard. We continue to see how technology is shaping healthcare, and the push to get the latest and the greatest to interface with our electronic health records. The Office of the Inspector General will be rolling out their permanent audit plan in the near future and we need to recognize future implications for our organization in order to stay compliant.
What one piece of advice would you offer to current students?
 I was once told to “never be the smartest person in the room.” In my first role as a supervisor, I remember wanting to have all of the knowledge my mentors and superiors had in meetings. Three career moves later, and that quote could never be truer. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Move out of your comfort zone and learn as much as you can from other professionals.

What hobbies do you enjoy? 
 I am a pretty big baseball fan, the Minnesota Twins in particular (53 days until Home Opener as I write this!). I recently moved to Chicago, though, and am starting to warm up to the Cubs. Do not worry fellow Minnesotans, I could never be a White Sox fan.

What is your favorite movie? 
 If I have to pick one, I would have to say A Few Good Men. You can’t beat that courtroom scene when Jack Nicholson takes the stand. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Perspectives in Health Information Management

Megan Munns
Although time as a student at the College of Saint Scholastica may be limited by the completion of a degree program, strong connections are created that stretch into to the professional world and last a lifetime.  The recently published work of CSS alum and College Trustee, Beth Haenke Just ('78), and CSS alum, Megan Munns ('11), along with Health Informatics and Information Management faculty members Ryan Sandefer and David Marc, exemplifies the strength and power of those ongoing relationships.  Their article, "Why Patient Matching Is a Challenge: Research on Master Patient Index (MPI) Data Discrepancies in Key Identifying Fields" was published in the Spring 2016 edition of AHIMA’s Research Journal, Perspectives.  The article examined common patient identifier matching errors, and is at the forefront of industry research and impact.
Beth Just

Beth Just reflects on the meaning of this work: “Accurate patient matching has been a challenge for years in our industry, but has become increasingly complex as the volume of records in EMR databases are much larger than they were even five years ago.  Although there has become greater awareness of the complexities of accurate patient matching in the industry, our goal with this research was to help the industry understand why it is so complex.  Subsequent research is needed on record matching algorithms and other technologies in place to address this challenge and Just Associates hopes to again lead that effort with CSS.”

The methodology, deep understanding, and potential influence in their research and subsequent article shows how CSS faculty, students, and alumni continue to lead in information management and analytics. The experience exemplifies one of the college’s best characteristics for David Marc. He says “A core value at CSS is community. We strive to demonstrate community by maintaining contact with all our alumni and when the opportunity surfaces we work collaboratively on research, presentations, or other projects. The opportunity to work closely with Just Associates on a large volume of data was an absolutely wonderful experience. Just Associates is a leader in the patient matching industry and we had a chance to work with the best of the best. What made this experience even sweeter is that the best of the best are former CSS students.”

This is a notable achievement, yet it is only one of the many stories that can be told about CSS HIIM.  We are dedicated to sharing these stories in a broader and deeper voice, and have recently entered the world of social media to expand and bolster our network. Please consider connecting with us, as we would love to tell you about the great things that we know are happening, and we want to hear about your amazing achievements that haven’t yet been noted!  Find us on Twitter @CSSHIIM, visit our Facebook page at, and consider joining our LinkedIn Group

If you have good ideas for articles or features, or know of achievements that deserve recognition, please get in touch with our department manager, Eric Nordgren, at or 218-723-7025.

Vivat St. Scholastica!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Practice What You Preach!

I’m bad; I haven’t practice what I preached. There, I've admitted it out loud. Now, for how bad I have been…

There’s an extra credit assignment in HIM3132 Medicolegal for CSS HIM juniors in their fall semester; after the unit that covers advanced directives (AD), living wills and healthcare proxy. It’s a chance for students to earn five extra credit points if their parent emails me confirming that the student have had the arduous, uncomfortable conversation about the aforementioned topic. I am routinely heartened by the parents’ notes of gratitude for catalyzing this dialogue; some share stories of situations regarding the students’ grandparents that went either well with or awry sans an AD.

In the same vein as my previous blog, I highlighted the visit from LifeSource. A driver’s license, if so designated, is the first line of notification that a driver is on the organ donor registry, a form of AD, if you will. If a motor vehicle accident (MVA) gives cause for a donor to be rendered appropriate for donation, the driver’s license typically sets the legal direction for that chosen designation. But, what if the situation doesn’t involve an MVA? What if the person becomes a patient that, in turn, is in an irrecoverable vegetative state and, now, viable for organ donation? If a person has an AD on file, preferably in their medical record, the healthcare team would refer to that legal document for procedural direction and life becomes perpetuated.

But, I digress. Back to why I’m bad: I created an assignment about ADs and I arranged for an organ procurement organization to present on campus about a form of AD so nearly 100 people could hear the important message yet, I do not have an AD on file. Do you? If not, let’s, shall we? If you do, I will…I promise.

~Madonna LeBlanc

Questions? See the link below:
Minnesota Law and Questions/Answers about Health Care Directives:

Ready for the real thing? FREE printable document at the link below:
MN Board on Aging

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to Save a Life

Typically, when a phone rings in the wee hours of the night, fear and trepidation surface quickest. For my father-in-law, it was the call he had waited five years to receive: there’s a kidney on its way to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) for you. They flew him from International Falls to Minneapolis; my mother-in-law was ill so our young family left Fargo to meet him at the hospital as her proxy. For five, long, grueling years that blessed woman kept her husband on home dialysis; using an 8th grade education, a 6 week crash course, and sheer determination. If not for her courage and heroine-ism in 1986, they would have had to drive an hour and fifty minutes one way to Hibbing for dialyzing. For the next five comparatively glorious years post-transplant, they enjoyed an untethered life, free from dialysis, until their untimely deaths in 1990 and 1991, cancer taking them both at the all-too-soon ages of 60 and 61. The paternal side of my husband’s family has been part of studies at HCMC as there is a prominent familial history of polycystic kidney disease (view this video for a brief synopsis of PKD: While my spouse is free from PKD, his oldest brother has been diagnosed and our children need to be vigilant. Once the cysts have progressed too greatly they render the kidneys non-functioning and dialysis or transplant are the only options for survival. As you can imagine, I am driven to promote organ donor awareness.  And, what better vehicle than the HIM profession to herald such a message?

On Tuesday, March 29, the Student Health Information Management Association (SHIMA) and the HIIM Department Faculty/Student Committee had the distinct pleasure of hosting LifeSource ( as part of the HIM spring semester initiative to elevate the major prior to advisement. Our guests were hospital liaison, Katelyn Wilson, RN, BSN, BSW, and Donor Life ambassador, Gloria Mattakat. They delivered their presentation titled, “Let Life Bloom: Saving Lives through Donation and Transplantation” in the Science auditorium to an audience of nearly 100 faculty, staff and students. HIM senior Faculty/Student Committee representative, Abby Ceglar, introduced the guests and gave some background on SHIMA and the HIM major to a crowd comprised mostly of students from the School of Health Science or the freshman Dignitas program.

Katelyn began with a historical timeline of organ transplantation from the early 1900’s through current day, presented the process of donation from transport of the donor to the hospital to the lifelong aftercare afforded the donor families. The related regional and national statistics generated several breath-taking waves, as 22 people die each day waiting for an organ and each donor can potentially provide up to 60 specimens of donation: tissue, organs and bones. Ambassador Gloria shared her son’s story of donation, which started on Thanksgiving Day, 1993. She conceded that, while she had told the story countless times, she still needed note cards to propel her through the events. Gloria was poised and stoic as she shared her family’s initial heartache and eventual consolation.

I've really treasured reading the students' reflection papers on this event. They're quick to relate how the statistics were halting and alarming, and they were so heart-warmed by Gloria and her courageous sharing of her family's story. Most mentioned the importance of keeping this message going and having the conversation to educate and encourage others to consider becoming donors. Mission: accomplished! (...until we put Katelyn out of a job by reaching that Utopian 100% registered designated donors.) Please join me and LifeSource in perpetuating this critical message of hope and possibility!

-Madonna LeBlanc

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Student Profile - Mike Kovala

Name: Mike Kovala 
Current Employer and Position: Sisu Healthcare IT Solutions, Solutions Architect 
Program/Degree/Anticipated Graduation Date: M.S. HIM/IT Leadership 06/30/16

What is your favorite part of taking HIIM classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

My favorite part of my graduate work in HIIM is working with the CSS faculty again. The majority of the coursework for me has been online, but I still feel very connected to the department. I’m lucky that I live close to campus and have the opportunity to see everyone occasionally, but even in the online classroom I’ve never felt disconnected. The curriculum is designed to be engaging and collaborative. The requirements are clearly defined, and expectations are reasonable for the complexity of the coursework. Above all, I could trust that the faculty was/is there to support me through each of my courses. 

What do you see coming on the horizon for HIIM?

With health information technology now in place in almost all healthcare providers, data mining, informatics, and analytics will continue to grow. Specifically, looking at the advancements clinical or financial research in healthcare because of EHR standardization, where easily comparable data sets and nomenclature are being used across different platforms and settings across the county. I think the data analysis as we gather more data will find amazing clues, cures, prevention, trends, to combat disease, solve rising costs, and answer other problems or inequalities in our healthcare delivery system.

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

After completing my degree I hope to continue to grow professionally. I enjoy the leadership and decision-making opportunities I’ve been able to take on in my current role. The graduate program has honed my skills to where I’m very confident in my background and expertise in health information technology. As I move forward in my career I’d like to take on the challenges of executive administration in a hospital or consulting IT setting.
What advice would you give to someone considering entering a HIIM Program at The College of St. Scholastica?

Ten years ago I had no clue how HIIM would shape my future. I feel fortunate to have taken some timely advice as a college student to pursue this field as an undergrad, then somehow magically found myself in a rewarding and sought after profession that continues to challenge me!  I can only hope to pay that advice forward and will always recommend the HIIM program at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
 What hobbies do you enjoy?
All things outdoors, especially hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking. Golf and volleyball in the summer. Cooking.
What book are you currently reading for fun?

“Practical Guidance for Health Care Governing Boards on Compliance Oversight” - The Office of Inspector General (just showing off for Brooke Palkie!)  
“Anathem” – Neal Stephenson. A little out there so far, but I really like the author.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Power of Networking: Getting Involved and Staying Involved

Are you entering into the HIM field with no previous experience? Are you concerned about how you will find a job or meet people in the HIM field?  There is an easy solution to help network and show the great skills that you have – Volunteering!  Volunteering can be a powerful addition and an easy way to meet new people and make connections in the HIIM field!

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and its Component State Associations have a variety of different opportunities to volunteer at different commitment levels. From helping out with a committee, leading a workgroup, or serving on an elected position on the board of directors, there is a volunteer opportunity that can fit into your schedule!  Don’t fear the time and commitment, something exists for everyone!

What can volunteering do for you?

Provide introductions and connections to other HIIM professionals
Provide hands on roles to gain experience such as project management and leadership skills
Create an platform for networking and engaging in the HIM community
Demonstrate and show off your knowledge and expertise
Assist in creating tools and ideas to help advance the profession and solve problems
Build self-confidence and self esteem
Show dedication and commitment to your HIM profession

How has volunteering helped people?

Shortly after college, I started to volunteer with the Minnesota Health Information Management Association's planning of the annual MHIMA meeting.  When I started, I didn’t actually know what I was going to ‘learn’ from this activity, but I thought it was a good opportunity.  What I gained in the nine months of planning the meeting were skills and experiences that would have taken years to learn elsewhere.  I learned invaluable, real-life project management skills by having to stay on task to meet the expectations set by the MHIMA association and board of directors.  I was able to demonstrate leadership skills by leading a committee by planning and executing the two and a half day MHIMA annual meeting.  I learned teamwork skills, as I needed to work efficiently and effectively with two other annual meeting co-chairs and our committee, as well as the MHIMA Board of Directors.  I learned the keys to effective and consistent communication, since we had to provide detailed information and updates to our Board of Directors as well as to our committee.  Lastly, I learned how to deal with complicated situations and ‘think on my toes’ for situations that needed an immediate resolution through managing a two and half day meeting.  The skills that I gained during this one year provided me with confidence and courage to get outside of my comfort zone, interact with new people, and feel satisfied with results!

Dan Utech, (Class of 2009) was volunteering at a component state association and met a HIM profession at a large, integrated healthcare system at the AHIMA Leadership Symposium in Washington, D.C.  He was able to create a relationship through his volunteering and kept in contact with the connection through different interactions and AHIMA events over five years.  When a new position became available, the individual contacted Dan and encouraged him to apply.  Dan was graciously offered the position and has been extremely successful as Corporate Manager of HIM Operations and Regulatory Compliance.

If you are contemplating volunteering or need an avenue to gain experience and skills, reach out and have a conversation with an individual.  It might just be your chance to gain skills, enhance confidence, and create new professional connections!  It is easy to connect and find your local AHIMA chapters!  Go to and click on your state! Contact information will be available for you!


Danika Brinda