Improving Population Health
Informatics and data analytics also can help healthcare
organizations improve clinical care, particularly for at-risk
populations, says Shannon H. Houser, PhD, MPH, RHIA,
FAHIMA, associate professor in the Department of Health
Services Administration/Health Informatics Program at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL.
For this reason, HIM programs around the country want to
ensure students understand common applications of informatics
and analytics, such as the development of electronic patient
registries to improve chronic disease management, as well as the
use of information from EHRs for clinical decision support and
to improve the quality of care, she says.
The two-year master’s degree program in health informatics at
UAB is focused on preparing health informatics leaders who
can span the continuum of informatics. The program offers
two specialty tracks focusing on either data analytics or user
experience, allowing students to focus their education and hone
their knowledge. Each track culminates with a capstone project
in an area such as health outcomes, quality improvement, or
organizational performance. “The specialized tracks, coupled
with the capstone projects, provide students with relative and
marketable skills,” Houser says.
To succeed in an era during which informatics and analytics
are growing, Houser believes HIM professionals should acquire
hard skills like Structured Query Language (SQL) and Health
Level Seven International (HL7) interface programming skills,
as well as knowledge of statistics and research methods.
Just as important—and often much harder to learn—are
softer skills like effective communication and critical thinking.
“We have to educate ourselves on these softer skills so we don’t
miss out on opportunities,” Houser says. “HIM professionals
should have these broader skills, particularly if they want
Translating Data into Meaningful Information
Furthering their education may be the most important step for
HIM professionals to improve their acumen with informatics
and analytics, says Connie Renda, MA, RHIA, CHDA,
associate professor and program director of the health
information technology and management program at
San Diego Mesa College, San Diego, CA.
The first class to enroll in Mesa College’s new baccalaureate
HIM program will graduate in May 2018. The program offers
students an informatics class that covers broad concepts in the
first semester of their junior year. The next semester includes a
course on healthcare analytics in which students gain hands-on experience working with data. “We practice with Medicare
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Learning More about Informatics and Analytics
Discover helpful resources in the AHIMA Body of Knowledge
(BoK), the AHIMA Store, and online at ahima.org. (Use your
AHIMA login and password; some resources are free, while others
are available for purchase.)
CHDA—Prepare for the upcoming exam in October or December
with this new resource.
CPHI—The exam is now available to help you demonstrate your
expertise in health informatics with this credential.
2017 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit—Head to this event in Los
Angeles on October 7–11 for sessions on informatics and analytics.
Gain hands-on practice with analytics at a preconvention workshop.
AHIMA Data Institute—Attend sessions on informatics and
analytics at the second meeting of its kind in Orlando this
Data Revolution Blog—Read monthly blog posts related to data
Informatics Practice Council—Volunteer for this new practice
council, which will be launched in 2018.
Informatics and Data Analytics Month—Watch for special
articles in the Journal of AHIMA as well as a new practice brief
this October. v
databases, each with hundreds of rows of data in Excel spreadsheets,
to try to determine what the data mean,” Renda says. Before
students take the informatics and analytics courses, they complete
foundational classes in statistics and quality improvement.
The HIM program also includes classes in management, leadership,
and strategic planning to prepare students to lead change in their
organizations. “We require oral presentations from our students
because they not only need to be able to create graphs and analyze
data but also to explain them,” Renda says.
For HIM professionals who may not be ready to head back to school,
Renda recommends shadowing a data analyst in information systems
for a day to better understand the role and share their HIM domain
expertise. She also suggests volunteering for a simple project to
practice data analytics skills. “You have to build the bridge to other
departments because sometimes, HIM does not even have access to
some of the tools and resources that IS has,” she says.
Taking these proactive steps will help HIM professionals stay
relevant and leverage their extensive domain knowledge. “Our job
used to be mostly about keeping data secure, private, and confidential,
but now we also have a ta into meaningful, quality information for our
organizations,” she says.