DSU Continues to Move Forward in Health Information Technology

By Alan Van Ormer

Dakota State University continues to build on its health information programs; the latest venture tying in knowledge with technology.

Currently, the Center for the Advancement of Health Information Technology (CAHIT) is being developed that would provide outreach for those in the medical profession or consumers who have questions about electronic health records. In addition, the staff in health information management will provide the appropriate education to make the programs work.

"As we move forward we will need training," said Dan Friedrich, director of technology support services.

That is where those involved in the health information management field fit in. That group knows how to organize the information and how to get the information ready for the outreach component, according to Friedrich.

The health information management programs at DSU started in 1975 with about 25 students when the institution started offering an associate degree in health information technology. At that time it was called medical record technology. This was followed by the addition of a four-year degree in health information administration and a healthcare coding certificate. That number has increased to over 120 students today.

The program teaches students how to work with medical records and health information at all types of healthcare facilities. Topics include things like the content of medical records and who can release information, as well as coding classes to allow students to learn how to use the healthcare information to assign codes for billing insurance companies.

"There is a real shortage of that," said Dorine Bennett, academic director and associate professor in the Health Information Management program.

Now, the university is also offering a masters degree in health informatics. Students graduating from the program will be able to use computer technology in healthcare to store, share, transmit and analyze clinical knowledge and data.

The hope is that the students graduating from the health information management programs will be able to assist CAHIT to provide the information to those already working in the health fields.

The Center for the Advancement of Health Information Technology (CAHIT) was officially designated by the South Dakota Board of Regents in April 2009. DSU had been working with the South Dakota e-Health Collaborative over the past two years. The Collaborative is made up of healthcare professionals, payers, and consumers appointed by the Governor from across the state.

The main focus has been working to get information about electronic health records to consumers and healthcare providers. The programs at CAHIT will help train staff, help research software and other related products, and help with other types of research in continuously dealing with the changes in the industry.

"We are the outreach and research arm," Friedrich said. "The health information management program provides the education."

A major challenge is keeping up with the speed of the healthcare industry and health information technology such as electronic health records. "It is going to happen real quickly and we are making sure we aren't getting left behind," Bennett said.

Last Updated: 1/12/12