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Northwestern College Introduces Bachelor’s Program in Health Information Management

HIM Programs at North westernMaking healthcare information accessible to physicians, facilities and all providers involved in patient care is a necessity that gave rise to the health information technology (HIT) industry. HIT, in turn, has created the need for a way to effectively manage an organization’s information systems. That is the responsibility of health information management (HIM). Northwestern College has recognized the growing need for HIM professionals, which is why we launched a four-year Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management program.

Health Information Management Program details

“Our program is a 2+2 program,” says program director Christopher Wheat. “In order to enter the bachelor’s track [for a B.S. in Health Information Management], you must complete the associate’s degree first. The way the curriculum is designed, the first-year student would have to take those first two years of the courses in the HIT program before moving on to the third and fourth years [of the bachelor’s program].” During the first two years, the focus is on HIT, which integrates two of the more profitable healthcare industry options — coding and health information technology. Students in the hands-on HIT program learn about medical coding, health information supervision, financial resources and management, and the components of electronic health record systems. “They learn diagnosis coding (ICD-10-CM), Inpatient procedure coding (ICD-10-PCS) as well as outpatient and physician procedure coding (CPT and HCPCS). Once students reach the third year, they begin more advanced coursework in the theory of medical vocabulary, classifications and terminologies — SNOMED (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine), CT (Clinical Terms), LOINC (Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes), for identifying laboratory observations. Additional coursework is then completed in human resources management, leadership theory, research and statistics, risk management and compliance, and even database management”

Eligible Certification for Program Graduates

Students who complete the HIM bachelor’s degree program will be able to sit for the RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) exam through 2021 if they have met the following conditions:

  • Earned at least a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Received RHIT (Registered Health Information Technician) certification on or before August 31, 2018
  • Complied with Standards for Maintenance of the RHIT credential

Career Opportunities

Health Information Management Programs at Northwestern College“The sky is the limit with the bachelor’s,” Wheat says. An associates-level student can earn RHIT certification, the technical-level degree that is required for an entry-level position. In HIT, that could be a coder, a release of information clerk or a patient registration clerk. With a bachelor’s degree, a student can move into management positions. They could branch out to a specialized role, such as a privacy manager or officer, or an HIM director. Other possibilities are auditing or private contracting; working for insurance companies, at law offices or with the government; or as a researcher. “Anywhere you find health information, there’s a need for someone who has knowledge of how this information was obtained, how to aggregate that data and how to store it,” Wheat says. “The ability to translate that medical documentation and coded data into information is very valuable.”

Need for Health Information Management Administrators

With an aging population and the increase in complexity of the systems, HIM is critical. “It was one thing when you were housing physical records in a room in your basement,” Wheat says. “Now, it’s entirely another when you have 20 different information systems in an organization; IT staff didn’t go to school to learn about medical documentation.” HIM professionals work in tandem with IT vendors and commercial software developers. “Although IT professionals can design the systems and write the software, they don’t necessarily know what the systems need to do or who needs to document what in the medical record.” Additionally, a trained HIM professional will know the protections required by HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, that was passed to ensure the privacy and security of patients’ healthcare information. HIPAA, Wheat says, tells medical facilities what they have to do, but not how to do it. “It requires certain behaviors, but organizations are essentially left to their own device to figure out how to implement said restrictions,” he continues, “so this is another role that health information managers —the bachelor-level student — can fill in these organizations.”

Future of HIM

In addition to being able to work with information systems and knowing patient privacy laws and security, HIM professionals need to be data literate about health care statistics. “There are terabytes of data — I think even petabytes — being produced annually in healthcare facilities, and a lot of that data is going unused because no one really knows how to harness that much data and get information out of it,” Wheat says. He said HIM professionals may want to focus on data mining and discover how to improve healthcare processes with the data now available.

Benefits of a Northwestern College Education

The HIM degree program prepares students for entry-level management positions. After graduation, they are expected to competently perform a wide variety of roles, from patient and physician interaction to the analysis, security and integration of health information and its use in healthcare facilities, third-party organizations and governmental agencies. Northwestern College provides you with the strong foundation that is necessary for a solid career. Consider NC’s many benefits, including

  • Small class size
  • Online classes
  • One-on-one interaction and help from instructors
  • Variety of tutoring options
  • Scheduling flexibility
  • Focused education that encourages, prepares and empowers its diverse student body
  • State-of-the-art technology
  • Easily accessible location

If Wheat has his way, the Northwestern College HIM bachelor’s program will be “the premier program of the Midwest.” If you think it might be for you, apply now.