During the past four years, my work as a Health Information Manager (HIM) has evolved from a traditional role in a hospital setting, releasing health information and undertaking clinical coding to a data analyst role in a non-traditional setting. I found myself stepping up and utilising a broad range of skills to assimilate health information from specialist health systems, such as pathology laboratories and practitioner services, to enable quality patient care. As a data expert, I focused on collecting, transforming, interpreting, and analysing health information to support program monitoring reporting and quality improvement processes at the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR).
In October 2015, a few months before my graduation from La Trobe University, I became the successful applicant for the Health Information Manager (HIM) position at South West Healthcare (SWH) Warrnambool in regional south-west Victoria. The primary focus of the role was as Freedom of Information (FOI) Manager and HIM-Clinical Coder (HIM-CC). The eight HIMs and one CC who service the network are primarily based at the Warrnambool Base Hospital, the largest of SWH’s four campuses. One of the HIMs is contracted to the other three SWH campuses, with the guidance of the two senior HIMs. I will now take you on my personal journey and share my perspective as a new graduate, from the job application process to the end of my health information management graduate year. I hope my experiences will inform future graduates and their employers.
As a health information management professional in a private health fund, I realise the opportunities are endless for Health Information Managers (HIMs) and Clinical Coders (CCs) in this industry. For many years I have worked in a hospital setting, so starting at CUA Health was an interesting change. My very first job in health information management (I did not know at the time that this was essentially health information management, as it is not recognised as such in South Africa) was as a clinical coding specialist and the manager for the coding auditors at Discovery Health in South Africa. This role had a strategic focus in the Risk Management Division. Working on payment models based on Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs) and casemix, I was instrumental in building an in-house coding tool, similar to 3M Codefinder, as there was no coding tool available in South Africa. This software was later made available to other users in the industry and some private hospitals. I was also part of the team working on Coding Standards for South Africa.
I completed a Masters of Health Information Management at La Trobe University, Melbourne, graduating in 2015. Like many other Health Information Managers (HIMs), I came to the profession in a roundabout way. Initially, I studied a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies, so I was a was a qualified Librarian for 10 years before undertaking a career change to become a HIM. My first job in the health information management profession was in clinical coding at Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, before undertaking my current role with West Moreton Hospital and Health Service.
The changing healthcare environment brings exciting and interesting times for healthcare professionals. With the move towards activity-based funding (ABF) and complex data modelling, HIMs are equipped with skills that make them valuable assets to healthcare providers and managers in a sector striving for efficiency in service provision. HIMs are well recognised for their broad wealth of knowledge based in the hospital sector, but as demands for knowledge are changing, so is the expertise of the HIMs.
An article titled “Australian ‘Code Like a Girl’ program created to foster community & inspire next gen. female coders”, was published in a recent edition of GirlTalkHQ. The article reported that there is a movement in the field of computer science to encourage more women to train as computer programmers and technical engineers. An Australian organisation called “Code Like a Girl”1 has been established to encourage girls into these occupations and to break down the stereotypes in this male dominated industry. This scenario is in contrast to clinical coding, which is a female-dominated industry. The article prompted me to think about Boys Who Code.