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Columns

Waubonsee Voices: Health information technology and the coronavirus

Patty Saccone is an associate professor of health information technology at Waubonsee Community College.
Patty Saccone is an associate professor of health information technology at Waubonsee Community College.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has raised concerns and questions about health and prevention of diseases. There are many people working every day to lower the concerns and answer the questions about the coronavirus. Many of those people are health information management (HIM) professionals. With the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, the vital role of the health information professionals has become even more important.

Health information management professionals are responsible for coding clinical information. This is commonly known as medical coding and is the process of assigning numeric or alphanumeric codes to clinical documentation. The HIM professional takes clinical data about diagnosis documented in medical records and assigns the appropriate codes to the information. These codes help to determine medical necessity and reimbursement for healthcare services as well as to monitor and improve clinical and financial outcomes. Furthermore, diagnosis codes are used to evaluate disease patterns for local, national and world morbidity and mortality statistics. The data obtained from medical coding is instrumental in fighting prevalent health issues and educating the population on prevention and treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the key agencies leading the response to the coronavirus. The CDC recently issued an official diagnosis coding guideline for health care encounters and deaths related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This notice reported the urgency of accurately coding all encounters related to COVID-19 including those individuals who may have possible exposure to the virus. Health information technology (HIT) students who are enrolled in the course HIT 210 were trained on these new coding guidelines to report healthcare encounters related to COVID-19. The classification system involved is used to classify causes of illnesses, diseases, injuries, deaths and other reasons patients seek healthcare services.

With constant changes in the worlds of healthcare and information management, as well as the constant changes in health concerns and threats locally and around the world, health information management is a critical and rewarding career field. The impact of those who work in this field is felt locally, regionally, and around the world. Waubonsee Community College offers degree and certificate opportunities in this field. Visit www.waubonsee.edu/hit to learn more about these opportunities.  

Patty Saccone is an associate professor of health information technology at Waubonsee Community College.

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