Monday, January 25, 2016

We All Have Something to Give!

Pam Oachs, HIM Assistant Professor 
& Undergraduate Program Director
In the last HIIM Blog, I wrote about the value of trying something new as we begin a new year.  In follow-up, I want to share how I took my own advice. Recently, I volunteered to participate in an AHIMA Item-Writing Workshop in which nearly 80 HIM professionals gathered to develop questions for various AHIMA credentialing exams.  I have considered doing this many times in the past, since it would be a great benefit to my current position to gain experience in question-writing techniques, and the workshop offered a chance to give back to the profession by using my HIM knowledge to help develop a challenging and valuable exam.  Of course, it was also an awesome opportunity to network with HIM professionals in various roles throughout the country. I have always had a reason for why I couldn’t take the time, but in January 2016, I did it!!  And what a great experience it was. There was a ton of hard work, but the workshop met all of my previous expectations and it allowed me time to reflect on my own expertise and how critical it is that we give back to our profession in some way. Whether it is by helping to develop questions for a credentialing exam, answering a survey about our job duties, volunteering on a workgroup or committee, being a site mentor for field practice, speaking at an educational session, or offering a bit of advice to a colleague, we all have something to give!    

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It's a New Year!

Pam Oachs, HIM Assistant Professor
& Undergraduate Program Director
A new year has begun!  Possibly a resolution has been made, that Spring Break trip may finally be coming together, or maybe plans for home projects are formulating.  But do we really know what the new year will bring?  Looking back on the past year, did we know that ICD-10 would finally be implemented?  Did we know Stage 3 of Meaningful Use would be so controversial?  Did we know that a neurosurgeon would be pursuing the presidency of the United States?   We may not have known that these things or many others would occur; but in retrospect, they could have been anticipated, and that anticipation could help us prepare for the things to come.  As HIM professionals, we were prepared for the implementation of ICD-10 and we were also prepared for another delay.  Though we may not have forecast the issues coming with Meaningful Use Stage 3, we must be involved in the discussions so that we will be prepared to assist our organizations as experts in the collection of necessary health information.  Are we prepared for a new President, whether that person is a neurosurgeon or not?  As HIM professionals, we must be ready for discussions and actions related to new or changing healthcare policy.

We must be prepared for all potential challenges. As the requirements of Meaningful Use take shape, we need to be skilled at gathering the appropriate information by mining existing data and creating ways to collect and store new data.  Understanding ICD-10 codes and their meaning for reimbursement and reporting is essential.  We need to monitor and adjust staffing, training, and processes in response to changes in coding requirements and productivity.  Creative options to enhance quality and efficiency should be explored; whether those are workflow changes, technology implementation, or process improvement.  Possibly HIM professionals will play a role in increasing patient engagement.  The potential for the HIM profession in the new year is endless, and we need to anticipate, prepare for, and be ready for any new opportunities moving forward.

The AHIMA career map ( shows many of the potential roles for HIM professionals. The number and scope of those roles is likely to increase as changes to healthcare policy, technology, and practice continue.  What is your expertise?  Can you find an opportunity to share your knowledge with others? In what areas would you like to learn more?  A possible resolution for the new year is to create a plan to learn about a new topic, such as patient engagement. Your plan may include researching and reading more about this topic, attending a webinar or session at a conference, taking a consumer informatics class, or simply exploring your own organization to discover who is working on this initiative and what work is being done.  Exploring areas outside of our daily work can be enlightening and motivating as we learn more about the expansive world of HIM.  High interest topics may include the Triple Aim, HIPAA, Meaningful Use, ICD-10, computer assisted coding, software (such as SQL or Excel or SAS or R), reimbursement methods, project management, compliance, data and information governance, document creation and data storage.  The fields of health informatics and information management are diverse and challenging.  The more we learn, the more we can anticipate, and the more expertise we, as HIM professionals, can offer our organizations to meet the needs of providers, patients, and other partners in the healthcare industry.

What is your plan for the New Year?  Make it a great one ~ Cheers! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Contributing to the HIM Body of Knowledge

Amy Watters, HIM Assistant Professor &
Graduate Program Director
As educators, we strive to expose our students to the latest Health Informatics and Information Management principles.  In order to do that, we must continually hone our own skills and competencies.  One of the ways we do that is by getting involved in professional activities, including contributing to scholarly work.  A recent example of this is the newly published textbook Data Analytics in Healthcare Research, for which Ryan Sandefer, Assistant Professor and HIIM Chair, and David Marc, Assistant Professor and HI Graduate Program Director, served as volume editors.  In addition to their contributions to the text, a number of full time and adjunct faculty from the HIIM department authored chapters, along with alumni of our programs.  It is through such professional activities that we maintain our skills to enhance our programs’ curricula, while contributing our knowledge in support of the HIM profession. 
David Marc and Ryan Sandefer

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lessons from Loss

Amy Watters, HIM Assistant Professor &
Graduate Program Director
Last week was bittersweet for us in the HIIM department at the College of St. Scholastica.  We had to say goodbye to our longtime friend and colleague, Pat English, who passed away on November 26th.  In addition to being an alum of our program, she was a faculty member for almost 30 years.  While we mourned her passing, we also celebrated all that she contributed to our lives, both personally and professionally. 

As we came together at her memorial service last week, two things stood out for me in relation to the HIM community.  First, I was reminded of the critical role we as HIM professionals play in healthcare.  Kathy LaTour, former faculty and HIIM department chair, gave one of the many moving eulogies about Pat.  She spoke about Pat’s unique perspective, and how it stood out among the faculty in the department.  To work effectively as a team, the faculty had completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory to determine their personal preferences related to perception and judgement.  Through this assessment, it was discovered that Pat’s MBTI type was different than the rest of the faculty in the department.  The department used this information to better understand one another’s work styles and utilize each faculty member’s skills as effectively as possible.  It struck me that as HIM professionals, we do this every day.  We know how to optimize the skills of our colleagues through our role as a bridge among people, services, and technology in healthcare.  HIM professionals use their breadth of knowledge to promote effective communication, and value the perspectives of everyone involved in providing safe, integrated, quality-driven healthcare for patients. 

Second, the number of people who came to honor Pat, and the numerous stories told about her life, reminded me of the strength of the HIM community.  Both at the college, and in the broader HIM profession, we are truly a family dedicated to supporting one another in our mission to promote health through quality information. It is quite a legacy to pursue, but one that feels a little less daunting given the strong support of our fellow HIM professionals.

Pat English

Monday, November 23, 2015

AMIA, Student Research, and Thanksgiving

Ryan Sandefer
HIIM Chair, Assistant Professor
After attending the American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium last week in San Francisco, I have two big takeaways. First, there was a major focus on data quality. With the rapid implementation of electronic health record systems, there continues to be issues related to the quality of the data and its impact on care delivery, research, and other uses. The relationship between these data quality issues and the need for HIIM professionals with the ability to improve data can’t be understated. 

Second, I continue to be impressed with the quality of CSS HIIM student research. Jean Scott, current CSS MS Health Informatics student, conducted a presentation regarding the impact of technology downtime in healthcare settings at the AMIA Annual Symposium. Jean provided multiple examples regarding the impact of technology at her current place of employment, and I was extremely impressed by her discussion about the analysis of each example and how the organization has responded to ensure that the risks are mitigated moving forward. 

Jean Scott presenting at AMIA Annual Symposium
It is always great to connect with students. Jean’s presentation showcased the challenges confronting the issue of data quality within electronic health record applications, yet also reflected the engagement of current students in working toward addressing it. 

Finally, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for our engaged group of students, alumni, and friends. I wish you all the best.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

CSS, MOOCs, CEUs, and….OMG!

There has been an extreme amount of hype regarding the development and offering of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in the higher education marketplace. The New York Times even called the year 2012 “The Year of the MOOC” as a way of capturing the intense interest, hope, and anxiety circulating about how these course offerings would ultimately impact traditional higher education institutions. While much of the hype around MOOCs — free, online courses on subjects ranging from Plato to Placebos — has waned, the courses continue to be offered in new and innovative ways. 

Ryan Sandefer
HIIM Chair, Assistant Professor
The College of St. Scholastica has been offering MOOCs for several years. While our courses do not attract the same number of students as other MOOCs (we average around 2,000 registrants per course as opposed to those that enroll hundreds of thousands of students), we have found a niche in the MOOC arena. The College offers MOOCs focused on very specific topic areas that are tied to professional development and credential maintenance. We even provide continuing education units (CEUs) for completing some of our MOOCs. Interestingly, we’ve found that by engaging professionals on topic areas that are timely and relevant to their professional roles and have been highlighted as needs by their professional associations, the participation and completion rates for our MOOCs are nearly twice the national average (approximately 18% of individuals who register for a CSS HIIM-related MOOC complete it).

Topics related to Health Information Management and Informatics have been a focus for several of our MOOCs.  As the ICD-10 CM/PCS implementation date neared, we offered a MOOC focused on anatomy and physiology content to address the increased anatomical specificity included in the code set. As the use of SNOMED-CT has increased to improve clinical documentation, we offered a MOOC focused on introducing health information management professionals to the structure and use of the terminology.  Similarly, as health data analytics surfaced as a key component of the American Health Information Management’s strategic pillar of informatics, we’ve offered two MOOCs on this topic — one focused on using the R statistical platform and the other on using Microsoft Excel.

We are currently offering a MOOC on using Microsoft Excel for Health Data Analytics. The course provides a hands on approach to learning data analytics. Registration is open until November 20th. To register for the course, click here

It is exciting for our College and Department to be involved in MOOCs. We are committed to offering quality education to thousands of students across the globe on topics of importance. We hope to see you online!



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October – The month of ghouls and goblins and ICD-10!

The long awaited transition deadline for ICD-10 has come and gone. However, many organizations are still waiting to see the full implications of the transition…was the training sufficient, did we allow enough time, did we scale back based on CMS’s grace period announcement?

Brooke Palkie
The waiting game consists of waiting to see if and how reimbursement is affected by ICD-10. It is yet to be seen if the denials will be based on payer policy change or errors on the claims. As we all wait, one key element we know is that it is time to get specific! We are now aware that many Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) and National Coverage Determinations (NCDs) still require specificity. Specificity comes from the level of the documentation regarding the care provided to the patient. It is now time to really focus our energy on viewing ICD-10 as an opportunity to enhance the capture of care for complete and accurate clinical documentation. One way to streamline the CDI approach is to identify the areas where clinical documentation is required to meet current healthcare initiatives such as payment reform (Value-based Purchasing), Meaningful Use, quality reporting, analytics and research. How do you get the buy-in from providers? Complete and accurate clinical documentation promotes better patient care and provides for the accurate capture of acuity, severity, and risk of mortality data. 

So where to begin? Start the CDI focus on the low hanging fruit and high risk areas. We know for certain that ICD-10 has major changes from ICD-9 in terms of disease type, disease acuity, disease stage, site specificity, laterality, missing combination code detail, and changes in time-frames. Focus on your EHR templates; do you include prompts? Have you implemented CAC? Don’t let October scare you in your tracks. Use the ICD-10 transition to reignite and energize your CDI process!