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A move to electronic heath records has spurred Rasmussen College and other educational institutions to develop programs that train students for careers working with those systems.

Digitization of medial records has been part of larger health care reform initiatives at both the state and national level. A federal bill mandates digitization of all medical records by 2014.

The bill, including $838 billion in stimulus funding, was part of the impetus for Rasmussen College to offer the Healthcare Information Technology program at its campuses, including the location in Howard.

In the program, students work with a simulated electronic health records and learn the ins and outs of the system. It includes a 16-hour mentorship in a facility that uses an electronic records system.

The program focuses on skills ranging from clinical work to information technology and leadership, said Hertencia Bowe, Rasmussen’s national Healthcare Information Technology program coordinator.

“There were about $19 billion allocated in the stimulus bill to modernize health care technology … increasing the demand for health information technology professionals,” she said. “Heath information technology and health information management is a field of regulation and technology, and those things change rapidly. As those change and grow, our students and graduates are going to be needed in this profession.”

The program can be completed in six quarters full time and nine quarters part time, Bowe said.

Some people may not be aware of the profession, and she expects the field will evolve with future technologies.

“This profession is going to be around for a long time,” Bowe said.

Local health care providers are moving toward electronic health records systems, and there is an anticipated shift in worker skills needed for that evolution.

“Health information jobs will change drastically in the next two to three years.” said Gwen Baumel, vice president of human resources with Aurora Health Care.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College offers an associate degree in health information technology.

Eleven of 13 graduates answered a follow up questionnaire, and of those, six found full-time occupation in the field while two had part-time jobs in related fields.

Positions include coding specialists, a health information technician and medical records associates. Three had full- or part-time employment in unrelated fields.

Misti Motter of Green Bay is expected to gradate from Rasmussen’s program with an associate degree in December and is confident she will find a job in the field.

“The medical field is always going to be around, no matter what you are doing, ” she said. “I figured this would open quite a few doors not only as an entry-level position, but would also set me up for management, which is something I want to do.”

Motter said the course has been more difficult than she expected, but she’s taken advantage of the program to learn as much as she can ranging from coding and ethics to management.

“I’m quite impressed with the program and how it has opened my eyes to the behind-the-scenes aspects of the medical field,” she said. Motter said she expects to start her job search this summer and thinks the degree will provide opportunities also in medical offices and nursing homes.

“With the way the economy is, no job is as secure as you think it is, and I feel I’ve chosen a field that will give me that security and will enable me to grow in the economy but also as a person,” she said.

source: www.greenbaypressgazette.com

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