Health Informatics: A Career Journey

This monthly blog highlights and discuss emerging trends and challenges related to healthcare data and its ever changing life cycle.


By Daniel VanSlyke, RHIA, CHDA Consultant

 

Looking back, I know I have taken a lot of twists and turns in my journey to becoming a health informatics professional. I often wonder how exactly I got here. Though my start in healthcare was not exactly a glorious one, and I ended taking quite the indirect—and unintended path—I have gained both perspective and flexibility along the way.

It all started 15 years ago when I took a job at a hospital moving boxes of paper medical records and assisting the current HIM Director. Over the course of 10 years that position grew and changed as I took on additional roles and responsibilities, like updating and installing a new dictation and transcription platform and learning the basics of outpatient coding. This led me to begin a re-education process to acquire my RHIA credential with more formal training and knowledge about health information management.

Almost immediately upon receiving that credential, I found myself in the completely different world of healthcare advocacy, where the need was for strong statistical analysis of multiple sources of information. My RHIA credential allowed me to understand where a lot of the information was coming from and what was causing issues with incomplete or inaccurate data, but to better analyze it I needed further professional development. It was almost like AHIMA knew my need before I did, and the CHDA credential was just what I was looking for.

I ultimately accepted the challenge and was successful in obtaining my CHDA credential to demonstrate my knowledge of data analysis and how to make the data meaningful. I didn’t know it at the time, but my initial reasons for obtaining the CHDA credential would soon morph, and I would find new ways to use my expertise that I had not initially intended.

Now, of course, as soon as I planned to get more education my career path changed once again, and I am currently an Informatics Consultant to NYSDOH, specifically working on the Cancer Case Reporting objective. While the frequency of my need to crunch numbers has decreased, I have found that understanding the role of statistical significance and its importance to be invaluable in project management, risk assessment, and application testing while consulting.

So even though my journey was not perfect, not ideal, and probably not even actually repeatable, it has been engaging, challenging, and always changing.

Last year I was asked to join AHIMA’s Informatics Task Force (which has since become a Practice Council) with an entertaining group of my fellow informaticists. Our most recent project is being featured in the Practice Brief of the October issue of the Journal of AHIMA and includes a deep dive into the informatics role, where it is going, and what skills and credentials employers are looking for.

The Practice Brief provides background on different roles for health information and informatics management (HIIM) professionals, and can hopefully help some of you who are trying to find your own HIIM career path with some direction and background knowledge.

 

Daniel VanSlyke (dvanslyke@nystec.com) is a consultant at NYSTEC.

1 Comment

  1. I look forward to your article for insight to break out into these career paths and I keep going back to these new credentials especially since the normal HIM/coding realm is not as satisfying as I would like.

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