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Health Information Management (HIM): UIC Clinical Assistant Professor talks benefits of the online HIM program

Smiling photo of MSHIM Faculty Member Gideon Ramirez

Gideon Ramirez, whose background is in business and finance, first became interested in healthcare after seeing his three siblings become registered nurses. When he was deciding to switch careers, the development of electronic health records was just emerging which is why he decided to enter the field.

Ramirez currently works as a Clinical Assistant Professor in Biomedical and Health Information Sciences at UIC for both the baccalaureate and master online Health Information Management courses. Working at the University since 2013, Ramirez’s expertise includes healthcare regulatory compliance, revenue cycle, coding compliance audits, risk assessments, data analytics and outpatient electronic health record (EHR) implementations.

When looking for health information management (HIM) programs, Ramirez chose UIC due to its long history. He not only wanted to give back to the program he graduated from, but he wanted to teach at a public research institution that is ranked nationally with name recognition.

What skills and knowledge will students develop/learn in their courses that will be useful in building their health information management (HIM) careers?

I recently developed and teach three courses in our Master of Science in Health Information Management program; HIM 581 Executive Healthcare Financial Management, HIM 534 Healthcare Vocabularies & Clinical Classification Systems, and HIM 557 Healthcare Revenue Cycle and Compliance.

These are all advanced courses that cover topics that needed more emphasis in our curriculum. In the healthcare revenue cycle, there is an acronym DNFB, which stands for discharged no final bill, so if you look at health care operations, this comprises a large portion of revenue which is sitting in accounts receivables. This is one of the goals in the healthcare revenue cycle and compliance that we teach in HIM 557.

The electronic system in healthcare is complex and having a better understanding of healthcare coding, classification systems and interoperability standards will better prepare our students if they decide to pursue technology. Our students are being introduced to these topics in various courses like HIM 534.

There’s also a good mixture of students in the program. Some candidates have long wanted to go into the healthcare field, but the timing was not right. Others may not have wanted to work directly with patients, but are interested in the business or technical side of healthcare. ‘HIM is the cross-section between clinical, technology, and business aspects of healthcare.’ The practices and principles taught in our courses will better equip our graduates, who will one day become leaders in the healthcare profession.

How will the HIM program better prepare/equip students for the current workplace climate they are facing? How will it help them tackle future challenges?

We teach our students both the technical and practical approaches to HIM domains. Our students are required to complete case studies in real-life scenarios. These exercises help them learn what it looks like when it comes to putting their knowledge into practice in the profession.

Students also participate in Interprofessional Collaborative Practice activities, which is part of the university wide Interprofessional Practice and Education (IPE) mission. The Mission of IPE is to create transformational change in health professions education and health care service by delivering evidence-based learning experiences that build collaborative competence. We require all HIM students to participate, because it prepares them for their future career and what is required in the current workplace environment.

What are the health information management job prospects for students who graduate from the HIM program at UIC?

So, there are a variety of job opportunities available to our graduates. In fact, most of our graduates in the bachelor’s level found their careers in non-traditional, HIM roles. I would say anywhere there is healthcare data information, a HIM professional would be a good resource. I would recommend graduates look into healthcare coding, healthcare reimbursement, healthcare finance, data analytics, healthcare privacy and law. Healthcare compliance is also on the rise, and we have seen more and more of our graduates entering that field.

What is the most important thing you have learned about having a successful career in HIM that you would like to pass on to people considering this field?

The Health Information Management profession is still growing, and one important lesson I learned to be successful in this field is to maintain good relationships. While there are thousands of HIM professionals in field, the professional community is still somewhat small. There is a chance you will run into someone you know at a professional meeting or conference, so my advice is to always work on building relationships and do not burn any bridges.

Tell us a little about the most exciting project you are working on right now.

The next project I’m working on is establishing a faculty practice within certain UIC College of Applied Health Sciences programs and departments. Many of them work with patients that have developmental disabilities and we want to help them consolidate their medical records and documentation and transfer them from paper into electronic health records. We also need to build or assign a code based on that service. These codes are very important in healthcare, because that is what will drive payment, or reimbursement. We do not speak in words, but we speak in codes.

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