Health information management degree spotlight
Yeimy Zambrano was only looking for an associate degree when she began her higher education. However, she soon found her passion and began pursuing a four-year degree in health information management at Indiana University Northwest.
“Healthcare information management is really fascinating, and it branches out to a lot of places you can work,” she said.
IU Northwest’s program in Health Information Management (HIM) is number-one in the country, according to the Healthcare Management Degree Guide, and for good reason. Students like Zambrano not only have plenty of opportunities in the classroom, but they also have the chance to expand their knowledge with clinical placements.
Linda Galocy, director of the HIM program, emphasizes the importance of these placements. “They provide real-world experience that any student needs. It’s important to see how it works in real life.”
While most IU Northwest students take interest in medical coding, they might also dabble in public health, healthcare law, and revenue cycle management. Population health is an emerging field that students are encouraged to learn more about.
“[Most] of a person’s health is based on social determinants of health,” Galocy said. “That means how well their [conditions] are managed, do they have health insurance, do they have easy access to medications.”
Zambrano took special interest in population health at her placement within Methodist Hospitals. There, she gained a wealth of knowledge about the ins and outs of caring for the public, including preventative programs and proactive healthcare initiatives.
Her mentor, Dawn Smith, director of health information management at Methodist Hospitals, has no shortage of passion for the field and educating young professionals. She emphasizes just how vital this line of work is to any successful hospital and all of its patients.
“[Medical charts] are telling a very important story,” Smith said. “That story is going to be viewed for many years, and as HIM professionals we’re in charge of protecting it.”
Smith is dedicated to making sure that clinical records tell the truth of each individual patient, and she does not shy away from such a big responsibility. Neither does Zambrano.
“Health information management is for me,” Zambrano added. “Improving a whole system is like a domino effect, and it improves everything else, even economically.”
Smith echoes this sentiment, comparing a hospital to one big machine. Medical coders might just be another cog, but if one gear breaks down, the whole system fails to function.
Although HIM professionals may not get the same glory that front-line nurses and doctors do, Zambrano and program director Galocy continue to encourage students to consider the field.
Galocy particularly highlights the variety of expertise IU Northwest students can pull from, thanks to diverse faculty. “IU Northwest faculty have different areas of expertise that we bring into the classroom. I think it’s very helpful for students to see that,” she said.
While industry expertise and professional work may be the main focus of any good education, it would be remiss to leave out the personal fulfillment to be gained from a career in health information management.
For Smith, she gains new perspectives from working with students. “I learn as much from them as they learn from me. It always opens my eyes to what people of this generation are thinking, and I incorporate that into what we do here.”
On the student side of things, Zambrano enjoys her ability to make a difference in patients’ lives, even if she isn’t working with them directly. “I would say to people that this is a life-changing profession,” she said.
Just because you don’t often encounter HIM professionals when visiting the hospital, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a team of incredible people like Zambrano, Smith, and Galocy working behind the scenes to keep you healthy.
Learn more about the Health Information Management degree program.