HIM Professionals – Pandemics and Futures

Every hospital and many other types of healthcare organizations employ Health Information Management (HIM) professionals. These highly trained professionals are often overlooked as critical members of the healthcare team.  

This challenging time highlights the important role of HIM professionals. And, as our health systems and their need for data and information evolve, there hasn’t been a more exciting time to enter the field. With physical distancing measures in place, our online Health Information Management program is the safest, easiest way for people to continue advancing their career in the field of HIM. You can read more about why so many people choose us and why so many employers recommend us and learn more about our program here. 

The important role of HIM Professionals  

The current COVID-19 pandemic showcases the incredible need for high quality, complete and timely health information. HIM professionals ensure that patient records are complete and available when clinicians need them to assess a person’s health history, make diagnoses, recommend treatments, and evaluate outcomes. They ensure the records are kept safe and secure and that confidentiality policies and laws are respected even during difficult times like these. After the patient has been in the hospital, HIM professionals take the patient record and use highly complex alpha numeric clinical coding systems (ICD-10-CA and CCI) to collect data that can be used for statistics, research, health planning and in the case of COVID-19, will be a critical source of information about the number of people affected who needed acute care. This data is used at the organizational level, the regional level, the provincial level and the federal level through the Canadian Institute for Health Information.  

HIM professionals also analyze this data to identify trends or to help organizational leaders, clinicians and others to make evidence-informed decisions about service planning or clinical and process improvements. Some HIM professionals work in research roles, helping to gather and use critical patient records required to research diseases like COVID-19. It is because HIM professionals learn such a breadth and specificity of information during their studies that they are such an asset to our health system.  

There is a myth out there that Health Information Management Professionals will become partly redundant as electronic health record (EHR) systems are implemented across Canada and evolve.  

The truth is that the HIM profession is changing in exciting ways as more and more healthcare organizations adopt electronic health records. There are critical roles for HIM professionals in planning, implementing and maintaining those systems and the records within them. New roles in health informatics, clinical documentation improvement, terminology standards, data quality, data analysis and other more technical roles are expanding the field of HIM dramatically. In areas like the lower mainland of BC, HIM professionals are being trained to do critical Information Technology work within the HIM electronic systems because these professionals better understand how these systems are used by their fellow HIMs as well as clinicians and the health system in general.  

As we move through and out of this challenging time, existing HIM professionals should be proud of the critical contributions we make to the health system – and encouraging others to enter the profession as it evolves in exciting and important ways.  

About the Author:

Jessica Schierbeck, MPA, BHA, CHIM, CHE
Director, Strategic Solutions (and HIM Program Director), CHA Learning 

Jessica is one of two Directors on the CHA Learning team, responsible for a portfolio of programs and for continuing to grow CHA Learning’s program offerings to support the health system and its professionals in their ongoing development. Included in Jessica’s portfolio is the HIM program and the post-graduate Coding Specialist Program and Coding Refresher course  She is a certified HIM professional herself with nearly 20 years of experience in the healthcare system.

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