HIM Education: Learning how to leverage data generated by more ICD-10 codes

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

While there are real concerns and challenges that come with ICD-10 implementation, there are benefits. Obtaining more data is one of the benefits discussed in this blog often.

But it's not an automatic gain. There needs to be some expertise in order to turn the data into useful information. And that's something being addressed at the School of Health Sciences at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. "To be able to collect and understand that data is kind of the goal of our program," says Ryan Sandefer, chairman of Health Informatics and Information Management department.

Sandefer says the good thing about ICD-10 coding is there are a lot more codes. Although some of those diagnosis and procedure codes won't be used very often, Sandefer says having more specific codes is a net benefit. And the school isn't expecting students to know every single code. "If they can think critically, understand the categories and think through how to drill into  specific areas for coding purposes," Sandefer says they will have a strong foundation in ICD-10-CM/PCS coding.

[See also: ICD-10 Education: HIM students learning more than medical codes]

That's the foundation for learning how to leverage the data. To build upon that skill set, Brooke Palkie, assistant professor of Health Information Management (HIM), says they offer courses such as clinical data management and clinical quality management. "What doess this mean, and how does this affect what we do at the local level and the national level and the global level." Students are learning about transforming that data into knowledge.

"One of our goals is to increase the research compenticies," says Sandefer. "Were trying to beef up the research skills among our students so when they leave they feel really competent to access data in whatever format." Sandefer says HIM graduates should be able to take that data and use it to evaluate programs, improve documentation and conduct clinical research.

What about  smaller healthcare organizations? There's a question whether small hospitals and practices can generate enough data to draw sound conclusions. "It's a harder struggle to sell the concept," Palkie says about small hospitals. "They still have to identify whether they are meeting the standards for that area." They know the benefits of the data but have to sell it within the organization.

But there are opportunities for small hospitals to collect enough data to help them improve business processes and patient care. Sandefer says there are about seven hospitals within 60 miles of Duluth. "They're all competing with each other but they're linked together," he says. "If they can come together and kind of standardize how they collect data, they can leverage a lot of smaller buckets of information." Then HIM professionals at small hospitals have a larger pool of data to use for research and descision support.

"It is a great step forward," Palkie says of the greater specificity. "I know it's painful, but I think it's necessary."