As with many occupations in Saskatoon Health Region, Health Information Management (HIM) Practitioners are hard to recruit and retain. With only one college in the province offering the course required to be an HIM practitioner, and low enrollment in past years, it has been a struggle to maintain adequate staffing levels.

To add to this dilemma projected impending retirements as well as advancements in technology threaten crisis for the profession. More than two years ago, the Region’s Health Records department made a decision to take a proactive approach to this problem by offering an internal scholarship program to existing Health Record employees who are not already HIM professionals.

They were offered the opportunity to take the HIM program through distance learning. Once students successfully complete the two-year course they are eligible to challenge the national certification exam and upon successful completion they are certified HIM practitioners.

It was in May of this year that the Region’s first ‘class’ successfully completed their course. Saskatoon Health Region can be proud to say that every one of the HIM students enrolled have successfully challenged the national certification exam and are employed as HIM practitioners.

The scholarship program is ongoing and three students are presently enrolled this year. Moving forward with these successes, the Ministry of Health has announced that Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan will record all health records electronically. While it does provide a challenge to the Health Records department, ongoing work has been underway to implement a voice recognition system for dictation/transcription and in July 2012 phase I was
completed.

The program will be phased in for other service providers and give clinicians the ability to self edit and authenticate reports. Health Records is also looking at different options for scanning, documenting and moving towards direct entry of documentation in an electronic format, and are involved in a number of provincial initiatives such as working with eHealth to display the Region’s discharge summaries in the provincial portal.