College of St. Scholastica's health info major highlighted in U.S. News articleA College of St. Scholastica major — the oldest of its kind in the nation — was among the nine listed as “hot” right now by U.S. News & World Report online magazine.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
A College of St. Scholastica major — the oldest of its kind in the nation — was among the nine listed as “hot” right now by U.S. News & World Report online magazine.
The health information management major has existed at St. Scholastica, albeit with different names, since 1934. But the push to modernize medical records has caused the program to evolve, and the school has been on the cutting edge of working with electronic health record technology.
St. Scholastica was discussed in the article, published in the recent Best Colleges issue.
A federal focus on electronic health records and health information technology has made the major popular, said Kathy LaTour, who is retiring this year after 18 years as chairwoman of the Health Informatics and Information Management Department. She co-edited the program’s textbook with Shirley Eichenwald Maki. It’s now in its fourth edition and has become a standard text used nationwide.
Someone with the skills from this major becomes the link between doctors and nurses and those on the computer side. They understand the clinical and technological sides of the data, LaTour said, and know how to use it.
“You can use it to analyze outcomes of care — whether it’s better to use this drug versus that surgery — and you can compare physician practice and the quality of care given in hospitals,” she said.
There are websites the general public can visit to check some of the information.
St. Scholastica’s graduates have gone on to big roles in the field, LaTour said, giving the college a strong national presence. The school began an academic electronic health record in 2002 to be used by students in all health-related programs. It’s meant to teach them how to use the technology before entering the work force and has been shared with other colleges and universities.
New department chairman Ryan Sandefer said the federal government, which has awarded grants to the college for its work, has realized that information collected by clinics and hospitals “can be used for a lot of cool things like research, comparative studies and to be able to cut costs.”
“There is a need for people who have been trained in the information and know how to manage it to get the most out of it,” he said.
Some students are drawn to the program because they want to be in the clinical world but don’t want to do direct patient care, Sandefer said. The array of jobs available for those with that degree focus — there are about 150 — is “astonishing.”
St. Scholastica has about 200 undergraduate and 200 graduate students studying health information management. Sandefer plans for the department to do more academic research as it moves forward. It is now working on how to standardize data collected by area hospitals.
“It’s such a growing and diverse field, the possibilities are endless,” he said.