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Future of Higher Education

Giving Health Information Students Real-World Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of American life, including higher education. My organization, AHIMA (the American Health Information Management Association), is the leading voice of health information, and meeting students where they are has been a priority for us more than ever during the pandemic. We have worked to increase our robust online education offerings to health information students preparing for an exciting STEM career in our complex, challenging, and fun field.

The AHIMA VLab™ is at the center of our online education strategy. The AHIMA VLab™ is a virtual practice environment where health information students can explore healthcare technology and build their knowledge through interactive activities. Practice meets theory in the AHIMA VLab™, as health information students are able to learn firsthand how the accuracy, protection, and accessibility of health information impacts each step of a patient’s health journey. 

Expanding the platform

I’m excited about many of the new features in the AHIMA VLab™. In 2020, we announced that MEDITECH Expanse is now available on the platform. MEDITECH Expanse is a real-world electronic health record (EHR) system, a safe place where health information students can get comfortable working in a digital EHR. Using software like Expanse prepares students to hit the ground running after graduation. 

More than 150 realistic patient case scenarios were recently added to AHIMA VLab™, reflecting our continuing commitment to enhance the learning experience for health information students. Each patient case has been coded, with up-to-date coding answer keys that are also available to educators.

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The Ciox HealthSource Gym was another important 2020 addition to AHIMA VLab™. This experiential coding training and assessment solution is a web-based application powered by clinical content, making it more efficient than ever to train and assess medical coders and even clinical documentation integrity (CDI) professionals already working in the field. 

Ciox HealthSource Gym is designed to improve medical coding skills by providing data-rich training and practice exercises with immediate feedback. It enhances the coding acumen of CDI professionals and allows users to learn by doing — a proven methodology for increasing retention.

Hands-on experience

I’m also pleased to have collaborated with Wolters Kluwer in 2020 to add the MediRegs Coding Center Student resource to AHIMA  VLab™. MediRegs Coding Center Student is designed to be an easy-to-use tool in which students can learn the basics of coding, billing, and reimbursement compliance. 

From pharmaceuticals and insurance to clinics, hospitals, and non-profits, hiring in health informatics is expected to grow 13% through 2026, making it one of the fastest-growing fields in the already-booming health care industry.

Students who use it gain valuable experience applying the many resources available to a wide range of complex coding and billing situations they will later encounter in their careers. And educators are able to pair MediRegs Coding Center Student with their own interactive lesson plans, teaching students how to stay up to date on the latest regulatory issues health information professionals need to know.

It’s probably becoming apparent that AHIMA and those we collaborate with value health information students learning in a realistic environment that offers the same types of challenges health information professionals tackle each day. By working with actual, commercially available applications used in healthcare, students develop an understanding of the uniquely human characteristics of health information and discover why its proper management requires a diverse range of expertise. They also learn to adapt in a space that is in constant evolution and become familiar with the latest technology. 

Better for all

So many groups of people benefit from AHIMA VLab™, including the students who obtain valuable experience they can’t get elsewhere, educators who are able to offer increasingly diverse educational opportunities, employers who are able to fill critical job vacancies with talented candidates, and providers and patients who benefit from health information professionals being well prepared when they enter the field.

And ultimately, that is who we are at AHIMA. We empower people to impact health, because health information is truly human information. To learn more about a career in health information, visit AHIMA.org/Careers

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