Canadian healthcare institutions understand that health information management professionals make a critical contribution to healthcare through the collection, maintenance and use of quality data. Coded data supports decision-making at all levels be they clinical, administrative, financial or research-based. Assuring organizations can maintain a staff of qualified coders to ensure consistency and a high level of data quality can be challenging. With a view to meeting that challenge, the HIM team at The Ottawa Hospital is very excited about the Coding Specialist Program offered by HealthCareCAN and CHA Learning. We feel that this course meets some very important objectives for us: quality, consistency and continuing education.
From a quality standpoint, our site requires that individuals performing coding classification and abstracting be CHIM-certified as a basic requirement, so we are assured our coding staff meet those learning outcomes taught in the HIM programs. Once employed in a health care institution, the growth of the individual’s knowledge and expertise in coding depends greatly on work experience and exposure to coding different care types and services. This specialist program will help those that want to enhance their knowledge and expertise and perhaps step into subject matter expert roles within their teams.
Consistency in coding is also critical, particularly for those facilities that have their funding influenced by the coded data in addition to the use of the data for clinical care, research and utilization decisions. HIM leaders need to be certain that coded data will accurately reflect the care provided to the patient. With the Canadian Coding Standards as the foundation, the consistent content delivered to students enrolled in this specialist course will help support that same consistency through to the facility level. An employer will know that a higher skill level can be assured in graduates of this course.
Finally, formal educational opportunities outside of our HIM programs in Canada are scarce. The Coding Specialist Program will provide a great learning platform for staff wanting to increase their expertise and perhaps step into more challenging roles and/or advancement within their organization, without having to find the training resources internally. The ability to access the course online creates flexibility for students to learn from anywhere, anytime at their convenience. Many leaders in health information management will agree it can take several months to train a new coder to the level of performance needed in today’s healthcare environment. When we factored the cost of providing that 1:1 training internally, we felt the budget in many cases would be better put towards enrolling staff into the program – achieving that quality and consistency objective without the burden on our current staff.
Health information coding is truly a niche area in which to work in healthcare. It is gratifying to see this is recognized by CHA Learning by building a program that supports the critical need for well-trained staff performing this important work. I had the privilege to be involved in the development of this program in an advisor role and experienced the tremendous level of commitment and dedication the team had in creating this exciting new opportunity for HIM professionals.
By Cynthia Penner, CHIM
Director, Health Records
The Ottawa Hospital
Cindy is a certified HIM since 1987 and is presently the Director, Health Records at The Ottawa Hospital, the busiest academic health science centre in Canada.