For the past two years or so, I have been researching four-year baccalaureate degree programs in health information technology (HIT), where I expected students in such programs to earn a BS degree, a Health Information Technologist title, and, perhaps be ready to sit for a rigorous certification exam.
No such programs exist in US colleges and universities – online, on-campus, or combination – as far as I know, except perhaps one at Miami (Ohio) University’s regional campuses. (NOTE: I am not referring to four-year baccalaureate degree programs in health information management or HIM, which are complementary to but different from four-year baccalaureate degree programs in HIT. I know, because I am both an HIT and HIM professional.)
Largely due to 2009 ARRA/HITECH dollars (workforce training), many two-year, community college-based HIT programs existed (before the dollars ran out), where students earned an AA degree (or similar), a Health Information Technician title, and were ready to sit for the Department of Health and Human Resources’ (former) HITPro exam. (A certification was not conferred upon successfully passing the HITPro exam.) Unfortunately, contrary to expectations and because of lack of experience, most of these students did not find jobs.
Many excellent one-to-two-year, post-baccalaureate degree programs exist in health informatics, whereby graduate students (typically clinical) earn either a MS degree or similar or a certificate, allowing the student to officially wear the Health Informaticist title (Nurse Informaticist, MD Informaticist, etc.).
As a college undergrad, I earned a BS degree in medical record science (today, health information management). My program in medical record administration was part of the university’s Allied Health Professionals Division. General Arts and Sciences Division requirements (English composition, sociology, chemistry, biology, etc.) plus anatomy and physiology consumed our freshman and sophomore years. Many of our junior and senior year courses were shared with the Allied Health Professionals Division’s undergrad nurses, pharmacists, lab technologists, dietitians, etc. The remaining courses were specific to HIM (ICD coding, records management, etc.). All Allied Health Professionals Division students experienced a minimum of four months practice in a hospital in the nursing, lab, pharmacy, dietary, and medical records departments.
I graduated the university with a Medical Record Administrator title and was prepared to sit for a rigorous exam that, upon passing, allowed me to be certified as a Registered Record Administrator (today, Registered Health Information Administrator – RHIA). Similarly, my fellow student nurses, pharmacists, lab technologists, dieticians,etc., became RNs, RPhs, RDs, etc. In general, we went directly into good-paying jobs as entry-level — but at least semi-experienced — healthcare professionals.
As a graduate student, I had few options except to pursue a masters degree in Health Services and Hospital Administration (or similar), which I do not regret. However, today, those with BS degrees in the healthcare professions can pursue advanced degrees in health informatics, highlighting advanced skills, knowledge, and experience in healthcare and in IT.
Consequently, I am proposing that four-year colleges and universities, working with or without existing two-year college HIT programs promoting Health Information Technicians, consider offering sorely-needed, workforce HIT programs promoting Health Information Technologists (like lab technologists). Subsequently, graduating students could sit for certification exams and become registered.
These healthcare information technologist programs would allow the BS-degree’d, graduating Health Information Technologist (registered or not) to gain required experience in the HIT industry and, if interested, to choose an HIT advancement and graduate path in health informatics.
In addition, I propose that these four-year, baccalaureate degree programs be incorporated into universities’ existing four-year, Allied Health Professional Divisions. Unfortunately, I learned from one public university with such a division that it is difficult to get the right parties to agree to offer new degree programs at the undergraduate level. I learned from one private university with such a division that undergraduate programs do not generate enough revenue to justify adding new programs, and only post-graduate programs do. Perhaps an accredited online university that is willing to keep the cost reasonable and can quickly establish a program also should be proposed, although program quality might be a concern.
Who or what entity is willing to take me up on my proposal?
Originally published at: http://histalk2.com/2012/11/14/readers-write-111412/