SPRINGFIELD — The health information technology program at Springfield Technical Community College was awarded accreditation, a big step forward for an area of study that can help hospital workers like Pamela Rau advance in their careers.
Rau, 53, of Southampton, worked at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield for more than 20 years when she decided to seek an associate degree in health information technology from STCC. She needed the diploma to continue working as a supervisor in health information management. Rau was part of the first graduating class in June.
“It was interesting because what I learned on the job coincided with what I learned in school,” Rau said. “And the things I learned in school helped me grow in this position in my job. I was very impressed with the program.”
Her next step is to take a certification exam to become a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). She also hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in health care administration. But her academic journey started with STCC’s Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM) program, which awards degrees in health information technology. On Dec. 20, the two-year-old program received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Accreditation, a tool for assuring academic quality, shows that the program meets a certain minimum standard. A graduate of the accredited HIIM program at STCC becomes eligible to take professional certification exams.
Tracey A. McKethan, department chair and professor of health information technology, said the program went through a rigorous process involving an on-site review by accreditors and met 33 standards. “There are no other programs like this in Western or Central Mass. or in Northern Conn.,” McKethan said, noting that STCC’s program has a 100% graduation rate.
The HIIM program prepares students, who are awarded degrees in health information technology, for certification and practice as registered health information technicians. The program has transfer agreements with four-year institutions, which means students can apply their credits from STCC to pursue bachelor’s degrees. Master’s programs also are available.
The technicians typically work at hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, mental health centers or large medical practices. As the custodians of patient medical records, the technicians must be able to translate complex data into understandable, interesting and simplified information for the general public.
“It’s a growing field,” McKethan said. “With more regulations being pushed out by the government and insurance companies, you really need these highly skilled, credentialed people in certain positions at hospitals and larger practices.”
For more information, call the admissions office at (413) 755-3333 or visit www.stcc.edu/apply. Fall applications are due by April 30.