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‘It Will Pay Off Big Time For You’: Professionals Share Their Thoughts on Working in Health Information Management

UW Online Collaboratives August 27, 2015
Darrin Dahl smiling at the camera during a video interview

If you’re thinking about working in health information management (HIM) or health information technology (HIT), you probably have a lot of questions about what it’s like to work in the exciting medical information technology field. Do you ever wish you could walk into an HIM or HIT workplace and ask the people who work there?

We caught up with Mark Bakken, CEO of Nordic Consulting, and Lori Tremlett, program manager of an accountable care organization (ACO) at Dean Health, Chris Elfner of Bellin Health, and Darrin Dahl, director of data services at Influence Health (formerly MEDSEEK), and asked them one of our burning questions:

What do I need to know about working in health information management?

Please enjoy the second installment of our video series about the real world of HIM and HIT. If you prefer to read their responses, see the transcript below.

What You Need to Know

Mark Bakken
Nordic Consulting

Do whatever you can to get in now. Healthcare organizations are more than willing to go out of their way to give anybody a chance, who is passionate, interested, willing to roll up their sleeves, do whatever they can. It will pay off big time for you. Right now, it is the wild west and you can jump in, you can find your niche, you can find your specialty. After a few years, you’ll be one of the leaders–one of the experts. If you really like it, obviously it pays very well. At the same time, it can be a great career for just about anybody.

Lori Tremlett, RN
Program Manager
ACO, Dean Health

I think they need to know about health care. I mean, you can’t just know about records now. You need to have some sense of–what are the quality metrics out there, what are the regulations out there that are impacting decisions being made. You need to understand how all this interfaces to affect patient outcomes as well as cost and how that all melds together.

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Chris Elfner, BBA
Information Strategist
Bellin Health

I would not choose any other field as far as fun, challenge, and almost unlimited opportunity. We are in the infancy of taking health data and making it better. We haven’t really automated the “shop floor.” What we’ve done is put in the ERP. The EHR is helping us manage the overall processes and the planning so we can schedule, we can build, we can collect some information clinically, but the fact of the matter is it’s still coming around on post-it notes stuck on scrubs–they have to run over and find a machine to type it in. What we really need are the vitals–we need all of that plugged into the EHR, so that we have automated the shop floor and we’re not running around. That’s the way to get discrete data entry and turn that asset of data into goals so you can pull out information, gain new knowledge, and then take smarter action.

Darrin Dahl
Data Services, MEDSEEK

First of all, it’s a very good field to be in. The demand for someone with the skill set that this program is going to be providing–they will not have a problem finding a job, because they can work for traditional healthcare organizations like hospitals or physician offices. They can work for health plans; they could work for vendors such as ourselves that perform services for other healthcare organizations. There are a lot of opportunities. I think there’s going to be a premium on someone with that healthcare knowledge. The healthcare organizations, once they have those individuals, they won’t let them go.


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Programs: Health Information Management and Technology