Driven by Data

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Two screens, four software programs, and enough health data to sink a ship. Or in the case of Health Information Management (HIM) professionals, to keep the ship afloat.

It becomes quickly apparent that a question to ask people who work in this field is not “what do you do?” but rather “what do you NOT do?”

“It’s not only the coding and classification of data and collection of diagnoses and procedures,” Lori Trainor-Girard, says. “We have to be able to wade through a lot of information, interpret and analyze that data, and determine which most responsible diagnosis to record.”

The broad spectrum of responsibilities and necessary skills of an Health Information Management professional requires a rigorous curriculum offered through NSCC. Courses for Health Information Management run the gamut, including, but not limited to:

  • anatomy
  • database management
  • clinical pathology
  • medical terminology
  • health law
  • health statistics
  • project management
  • epidemiology
  • research design and methodology

After completing the course, graduates are then eligible to challenge the Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA) national certification examination. There is a wide variety of roles for a Certified HIM, including Coding and Classifications, Decision Support, Analytics, Privacy, Health Information Services, and much more.

Jen Bennett, Manager of Performance Analytics, says the work of the HIM professionals is used everywhere in the IWK Health Centre, and extends provincially and nationally as well.

“The data they code and classify from inpatients, day surgery, emergency, maternal and newborn health is the foundation of the information that is developed and produced through Decision Support and leads to organizational decision making,” Bennett says. “It is also provided to the IWK board, used for research requests, the Department of Health and Wellness, and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). It has to be absolutely accurate.”

And accurate it is, as the last spot audit conducted by CIHI had the team at a 98 per cent score.

Even though Health Information Management professionals work behind the scenes, and may not be as visible as other contributors to the IWK, their work is critical to operations as a whole.

“As the population ages, demographics change, the demand for health care services increases, and as we move more towards an electronic health records, Health Information Management professionals are going to become even more important,” Bennett says. “We are very fortunate to have such a strong HIM team that takes tremendous pride in their work and produces quality data that supports decision making that ultimately helps patients and their families.”