By Kathleen Peterson, HIHIM Director
When you last heard from us in the School of Public Health, we profiled growth and change in the Public Health Major and introduced the Nutritional Sciences Minor. In this edition, we are highlighting a graduate from the School's Health Informatics and Health Information Management (HIHIM) program.
If you are looking for a career on the leading edge of healthcare, Health Informatics and Health Information Management (HIHIM) may be right for you! HIHIM is a pre-professional program, through which students earn a bachelor's degree or post-baccalaureate certificate. It offers graduates the opportunity to work on the business side of healthcare. Supporting clinicians and researchers in direct patient care and population health, this profession is expert in the access, use, and disclosure of health information. Graduates of the program understand technology applications and privacy and security laws and regulations, and develop leadership skills to contribute to the implementation of health information systems.
Elliott Thoreby graduated from the Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics and Health Information Management in 2012 and is now working as a health information management coordinator at Swedish Medical Group. Here, Elliott describes how the HIHIM program connected him to people working in the field and talks about what he enjoys most about working in the health information management industry.
What led you to the Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics & Health Information Management?
Early in my undergrad I found that I really enjoyed science and technology classes. There are a few doctors in my family, so I have always been interested in health care, though I knew I didn't want to go the physician route. I came across the HIHIM program and thought it was an interesting intersection of technology and health care.
What types of skills did you learn in the HIHIM program? What were some of your main takeaways?
You learn a lot about the current health care environment and relevant health care laws, so you come out with a strong understanding of those (especially HIPAA regulations, which are important to employers). The program also gives you the skills needed to pass the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam. They cover very thoroughly every aspect of the exam and what you need to pass it.
But what I think may be a little less expected is that the instructors also emphasize practical business skills. You're taught a lot about how to succeed in a professional setting and how to communicate in the business world. There is also an emphasis on teaching you how to build a resume and market yourself. There is a portfolio project, which is a big part of that. You're asked to compile what prior experience you may have had in health care and pieces of classwork that you've done. So at the end, you have a book you can use as job interviews that shows, "I have these skills that you're asking for. I've done this before. I know how to apply this knowledge."
Did the HIHIM program offer many networking opportunities?
Networking is something that the faculty really emphasize. Not only with your fellow classmates, but they also encourage you to connect with working professionals. The program includes site visits to various care sites or HIM facilities, and you get the chance to chat with people working in the field.
There is also a mentoring component to the program. You get paired up with a working professional whose job fits with your interests, and then you meet with them periodically to discuss what you're learning about and your career plans. My mentor was the HIM director at her company. She gave me great advice and suggestions about the direction I might want to go in, based on my interests. She was really helpful at identifying potential career paths I might want to pursue.
What types of projects did you work on?
The program includes a capstone project, which is a great opportunity to get your feet wet with some real material. For my project I went to UW Medicine IT Services, where they had been piloting software to teach care providers how to accurately code patient evaluations. My job was to look at the raw data and compare what was assigned to the correct codes and determine if the discrepancies were changing over time. I enjoyed this because it was an open-ended project and I could really choose how I wanted to approach it. I liked having the chance to do real work that meaningfully contributes to an organization. The capstone project is also valuable because it lets you try something you might want to do for a living. It's like a brief internship.
Can you tell us a little about your current job?
I am a health information management coordinator at Swedish Medical Group. It's a pretty versatile job, but it's primarily focused on data integrity analysis as well as education for new employees. The education piece involves helping new employees learn how to use the system that houses all clinical information for every patient in the network.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
What I like about work is that my job is fairly broad in terms of the projects I'm involved in. I can involve myself in things that I think are really important to the organization, and feel like I am making a tangible, positive impact. I also like knowing that I'm not tied down to one area or one specific job. This degree, and the RHIA certification, gives me an ability to move around if I choose. In the HIM field you have a lot of variety in terms of places you can work and freedom to pursue different career paths.
To learn more about whether HIHIM is right for you, visit the website or contact the program directly at 206-543-8810 to speak with faculty about the field. Suki Kwon, academic counselor in the UW Undergraduate Evening Degree Completion Program, is available for admission advising. Call 206-543-6160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment. Our next information session is on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in the UW Tower, Visitor's Dining Room, from 4:30-5:30 pm for transfer students.
In addition to the Health Informatics and Health Information Management Degree & Post Baccalaureate Certificate, keep in mind the other programs for undergraduate study in the School of Public Health: