What’s the Deal with HIPAA?

Data breaches in health care organizations placing patient information at risk are increasingly common and have an estimated cost of over $2.2 million per occurrence.1In an effort to combat digital information from slipping through the cracks, the federal government crafted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)2  to protect patient privacy through enforcement of how health care organizations use, store and disclose information.

For health and human services students committed to comprehensive quality in patient care, health and safety, it’s important to understand the purpose of HIPAA laws and how they affect the operations of organizations. Qualified professionals, who have a clear understanding of the HIPPA privacy laws, are vital to improving HIPAA workflows and mitigating risks of data breaches.

The Basics of HIPAA

Patients have often encountered HIPAA whether they realize it or not; when they go to their health care provider’s office prior to an appointment and fill out their health history, they’ll be asked to read and sign several pages of forms. These forms may include HIPAA paperwork that outlines how their information may be shared within the organization.

HIPAA regulations include the Privacy Rule3 and the Security Rule.4 The Privacy Rule establishes protections  that set parameters on how providers use patient information and who they share it with. This rule also enables patients to request health record copies or make corrections to them in case of errors. The Security Rule outlines actual procedures on how to safeguard patient information. Procedures may include details on how or where information can be housed as well technological specifications for software protection.

Health care providers such as physicians, registered nurses, emergency medical technicians, and patient care coordinators must abide by HIPAA regulations2 to ensure quality patient care and privacy. Health plans and third party organizations that process patient health information are also bound to compliance.

HIPAA’s Influence on the Health Care Industry

HIPAA regulations create a unique ripple effect in health care and public health. These federal rules are in place to harmonize privacy with access to quality care; the regulations protect patient privacy, but sharing information between providers from different organizations requires increased coordination with patients and facilities to ensure consent. For clinicians, students, scientists and other professionals involved in health care, research is vital as a cornerstone to improving patient care outcomes and the effective use of technology.

HIPAA’s impact on research can present obstacles to participant recruitment, diversity in study participants, access to data and the completion of studies. These challenges may directly increase the amount of funding needed for research.5

In many cases, HIPAA can work to directly benefit the workplace by boosting the responsibility and transparency of health information management. Digital paper trails can determine who views patient records, tracks changes, or updates information.

HIPAA also enhances integrity of a health care facility’s business practices by enforcing data access restrictions, which limits liability. Strong password enforcement is another key feature of HIPAA’s security measures, which can cut back on sensitive data access from inside and outside of a health care organization.

Regulations require the implementation of data backup strategies and malware protection parameters. Cyber breaches cost the industry up to $6.2 billion in losses, 1 so protection augmented by HIPAA can reduce a facility’s overall cost of operation, and prevent loss or tampering of patient records.

HIPAA’s physical security requirements, which include details regarding camera surveillance, securely locked doors, identification badges and power loss contingency help organizations implement the extra layers of protection they need to ward off data breaches.

The Role of HIPAA for Health Informatics Jobs

While the HIPPA privacy rules protect sensitive information regarding patient health and care, rules do permit certain authorities to disclose protected information without authorization to protect the health of individuals and populations.6 Examples of situations where disclosing information may be critical include child abuse or neglect, persons at risk of contracting or spreading disease and medical surveillance related to workplace injuries.

Cultivate Solutions for the Health of Your Community with an Online MSHI Degree

The University of Scranton’s Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) program offers a curriculum developed to teach students the skills to protect the health of individuals and communities through prevention and health education. The online MSHI program offers a flexible class schedule to accommodate working professionals who demonstrate leadership skills and to wish to advance their education and career.

Learn more about Health Informatics at The University of Scranton.


1 Ponemon Institute. (2016). The sixth annual benchmark study on privacy & security of health care data. Retrieved from http://www.cahiim.org/hi/aparprocess.html
2 U. S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n. d.). Health information privacy. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/index.html
3 U. S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n.d.). The HIPAA Privacy Rule. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/index.html
4 U. S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n.d.). The Security Rule. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/index.html
5 U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health. (2007). Clinical Research and the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Retrieved from https://privacyruleandresearch.nih.gov/clin_research.asp
6 U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n. d.). Public health. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/public-health/index.html

Faculty Spotlight: Scranton’s Beth Elias, Ph.D., MS, FHIMSS, Brings Health Informatics Expertise to Leading International Conference

This February, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference convened in Orlando, Florida, bringing together 40,000 health information and technology professionals from more than 90 countries to discuss, debate, and co-invent the future of health information management.

 Health professionals, corporate executives, technologists, and market suppliers met, networked, and listened to leaders in the field discuss what’s next.

This year, The University of Scranton’s own Beth Elias, Ph.D., MS, FHIMSS, a faculty member in the health informatics program, was invited to speak as part of the prestigious “Views from the Top” sessions at HIMSS, a collection of educational sessions from those considered high-level leaders in the field. Elias became a HIMSS Fellow in 2018, but has been involved with the organization for many years.

“It is such an honor to be recognized for my contributions to the organization and to Health Informatics,” she says. “HIMSS is truly an interprofessional and interdisciplinary organization that welcomes everyone.”

Standards across borders

In her role with The University of Scranton, Elias shares her healthcare technology expertise with students in the Master of Science in Health Informatics program, but at HIMSS19, Elias spoke of an international effort to set high and consistent standards for the education of health informaticians across international borders.

“We must ensure we are preparing students who will be able to serve as effective health informaticians when they graduate,” says Elias, who alongside co-presenter Dr. Ursula Hübner, shared results of their work.

The project, known as the TIGER (Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform) International Competency Synthesis Project, began in 2015 when the organizers started collecting case studies and survey input from around the world, as part of an effort to understand the current state of educational competency standards.

Bringing it back to Scranton

After two years as a committee member on the project, Elias’s role expanded in 2017 to serve as national co-chair, where she worked with a team of representatives from 21 countries to standardize education. The end result: a robust framework that offers a structure for high-quality, consistent international standards while taking into differences across borders and cultures.

For Elias, her interest in this work comes from a desire to make the field stronger for everyone—including her students at The University of Scranton.

“Any work we do to understand how to better prepare students to be effective health informaticians helps our students stand out from others,” she says. “Projects like the International Competency Synthesis Project allow us to learn not only what we need to teach, but also informs us in the best methods.”

Build Your Own Career in Health Informatics

Join Professor Elias with an MS in Health Informatics from The University of Scranton. Learn more here!

Health Informatics: A Lucrative Job Market

The Health Informatics Job Market: Lucrative and Robust

Health informatics is a robust, and growing, field at the nexus of healthcare and technology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in the field is projected to grow twice as quickly as overall employment through 2022, rising 22 percent.1 Demand, however, varies across the U.S.

States With the Most-Vibrant Health Informatics Job Growth

Job markets where demand for health informatics professionals is expanding quickly can be found in regions throughout the U.S., according to data from job market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies. Here’s a look at the areas with the most-vibrant job growth.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Massachusetts, Connecticut and the District of Columbia have high concentrations of healthcare information technology companies that have contributed to strong job growth. Massachusetts has launched a private-public initiative to strengthen its reputation as a hub for healthcare IT innovation.2

Midwest.

In Michigan, Illinois and Missouri, institutions are engaged in cutting-edge research in informatics, while at the same time, job demand also is high in more-rural states, like South Dakota, which are innovating in areas such as telemedicine.

South.

Georgia, Louisiana and Virginia are the states that stand out in the South. Two examples of strong informatics activity in the region: Georgia is creating a statewide incubator,3  while Louisiana has established a network of more than 100 hospitals that share information on healthcare quality and population health measures.4

West.

A focus on informatics and health IT in California’s Silicon Valley is being echoed by innovative efforts to integrate healthcare data in Oregon5 and Arizona,6 two states with high job demand.

Salaries Are Far Above Average

Salaries in the health informatics field are excellent. The average salary for health informatics professionals nationwide is $88,000, according to Indeed.7 Some jobs, such as the medical coders required to comply with the new ICD-10 standards (with average salaries of up to $50,000), do not require advanced degrees. But the most-lucrative careers require specialized skills that come from a combination of clinical experience and specialized training in technology and business practices. The best-paying jobs include:

  • Health Data Standards Leads, average salary $156,000
  • Informatics Specialists, average salary $104,000
  • Nursing Informaticists, average salary $100,717
  • Clinical Informatics Managers, average salary $92,819
  • Senior Healthcare Informatics Analysts, average salary between $90,000 and $140,000
  • Clinical Analysts, average salary $68,823
  • Clinical Informatics Specialists, average salary $68,707
  • Health Informatics Specialists, average salary between $61,050 and $123,000

The Skills You Need

A Burning Glass analysis of job listings for the health informatics careers that require advanced degrees indicates that a broad range of high-level skills are in high demand, and these skills are generally obtained only with a graduate-level degree. Health informatics professionals should have some combination of these skills under their belt:

  • Data analysis
  • Business administration
  • Project management
  • Data management
  • Information systems
  • Business intelligence
  • Management consulting

Employers in the health informatics field also are looking for individuals who are good communicators, researchers and problem solvers.

The University of Scranton: At the Cutting Edge

The University of Scranton’s Master of Science in Health Informatics program is at the cutting edge of this emerging field. The program’s faculty includes top-tier professionals whose firsthand experience in solving complex healthcare problems can help you become the health informatics expert your organization needs.

To learn more about the Health Informatics program at The University of Scranton, click here.

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Alumni Spotlight – Finding Career Success with a Health Informatics Degree

Patrick Wende, M.S., explains how the Master’s in Health Informatics supports his career path

We talked to Patrick about his experience in the Health Informatics program, his new position, and the future of the health informatics field.

Tell us about yourself and how you decided to pursue a Master of Science in Health Informatics at The University of Scranton.

My name is Patrick Wende and am originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I attended The University of Scranton as an undergraduate, studying exercise science and sports. While I found that field fascinating, it wasn’t the career field I was looking for.

By chance, I landed in a role at a local hospital teaching professionals how to use electronic health record software, and found that the health informatics field was the field for me. After being in health informatics for some time, I decided to pursue a graduate degree and chose to return to The University of Scranton. My choice was largely due to the history I had with the school, and my knowledge of the quality of education I would get—notwithstanding it being a brand new degree program.

How did the program fit into your job?

Throughout the program I worked at Geisinger, a local health system, managing their trauma registry. Though very data- and writing-intensive, this position allowed me to interact with clinical and administrative professionals to understand where health technology fit into their workflow and the changing landscape of health care.

One course, healthcare policy management, impacted my work immediately. While it was taught mostly using the government as an example, the principles were very easily translatable to the private organizational healthcare structure as well. The course explored how the policy process functions when considering the need for political momentum and effective change management. Combined with my experience in interacting with administrators, this knowledge completely changed my perception of the field.

Working with these administrators helped me better understand why processes and policies I’ve experienced in the past have or have not worked. The overall impact of the ways process and policy are enacted, changed and managed was a major eye-opener for me, and I’ll be using that information forever.

How did you balance your data- and writing-intensive job with your coursework?

It was a challenge, no doubt. I was fortunate to have a supervisor at my job that was very understanding of the challenges that I would be undergoing as a student and a full-time professional, and she was flexible with me.

I know that’s something not every student will have. It certainly is a challenge to maintain 40-plus hours of work per week and the student workload, but you just have to develop a new routine. You prioritize your time in such a way that you can complete your work and school work while still having time for yourself.

Scranton’s course structure made it much easier to build this routine. The workload is laid out by week, so you aren’t overburdened with a mass amount of work to do all at once.

What project did you do for your capstone course?

My capstone project took me to a wide variety of facilities in the Geisinger system to compare and analyze how the same process worked at four different hospitals. My job was to document the differences between them, their strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for process standardization across the hospitals.

I had to learn to work with each stakeholder group impacted by the process; otherwise, I’d have only bits and pieces of the information vital to understanding the process as a whole.

There were so many moving parts, regardless of location, that it required me to confirm information at various levels. That aspect was astonishing in and of itself—realizing just how many layers of personnel you need to explore to effectively document a process.

How does technology fit into health informatics?

The field is growing more technical. Informaticists—a common health informatics title—work as the intermediary between clinical and technical personnel. When I was looking for new professional opportunities, many informaticist positions required a solid technical base and were seeking candidates who weren’t afraid of learning new technologies.

Essentially, if you’re interested in pursuing this field, you need to be willing to embrace the idea of new and developing technology.

In my current role, I will be able to use many of the skills the program teaches that are geared toward informaticists—again, that link between the clinical and technical. But, if you were to draw a spectrum with technical on one end and clinical on the other, you wouldn’t be able to place the informaticist right in the middle. They would be more toward the technical end of the spectrum. At least that’s what I’ve experienced in my role, and I think that goes for the majority of informaticist positions as well.

Do you need a technical background for Scranton’s program?

You don’t need to be very technical to get through the program, but as the field skews more toward the technical side, the curriculum is sure to follow. Scranton’s program introduces technical topics in early courses and gives students a base from which to gain job-specific skills.

I get a lot of built-in education at my current job, especially as I’m learning the specific software that we use. The degree prepares you to enter the workforce, you just have to know that part of being an informaticist is learning how technology fits into your specific position.

Finally, do you have any advice for prospective students?

The health care field is very interesting and has a wide range of opportunities, offers, and room for a diverse workforce. Students should take any opportunities to speak to or shadow people in the field to make sure that it’s the field they want to be in because it’s so unique.

 

The University of Scranton’s Master of Science in Health Informatics program is at the cutting edge of this emerging field.

Transforming Patient Care with Technology

In today’s health care fields, technology is ever changing and progressing at a rapid pace. From patient satisfaction to innovative engagement interaction, the health care industry is paving the way for collecting and analyzing data.

The Affordable Care Act provides hospitals incentive to provide better care while at the same time increasing patient satisfaction. Because patients have more choices than ever, it is important that hospitals encourage innovative and effective patient engagement.

The way technology is progressing today, is by having patients participate in their own healthcare.

Healthcare providers are empowering their patients by encouraging them to track their own health progress from diagnosis through treatment and even into recovery via handheld devices (mobile and tablet).

Patients are using two-way communication to connect directly, by receiving medical notifications via mobile apps and asking doctors questions in real time. By removing the human error of not following up with doctor referrals, automatic referral requests are now being sent ensuring the continued care of patients.

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are just the tip of the technology iceberg. Now, the industry is using data warehouses to not only keep providers informed, but they are enhancing patient care by bringing a broad data range of figures together to predict the best methods of care. Metrics such as outcomes, lifestyle, biometric, and genomic data points are being combined together to create smarter approaches to care.

The future for the healthcare industry is bright. Products like electronic underpants used for bedridden patients to prevent bedsores, and bacteria killing light bulbs are currently being tested. Machines like robotic smart nurses are being invented and produced to assist human nurses with daily activities like moving patients between beds by wheelchair.

Click the infographic below to see the impact technology is having on the health care industry and improving patient care.