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Majors & Degrees

Beyond the bedside

March 21, 2024

This article was originally published on SiouxFalls.Business on March 20, 2024. 

An interest in science, medicine, and health will often conjure images of potential careers as doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, and therapists, but there are other avenues for those who would prefer to work with different aspects of patient care.

“With health informatics, it is possible for me to contribute to the health and well-being of not just my community, but entire organizations, towns, states, and even the nation without having to directly care for individuals,” said Zach Rohrbach. He is a 2022 alumnus, and current Master of Science in Health Informatics and Information Management student.

Health informatics and information include all data related to a patient’s medical history, including their symptoms, diagnoses, procedures, and outcomes. Those working in the field focus on accuracy, timeliness, validity, and the security of this information, explained Dr. Renae Spohn, DSU Director of Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM) programs and coordinator of the Master of Science in Health Informatics and Information Management Program.

This allows for health-related research by analyzing coded data to identify patterns among individuals, families, and communities. This information is used to improve treatments, quality of care to patients, and decreased mortality rates, Spohn said.

Dakota State University offers a variety of HIIM programs that prepare students for careers in medical billing and coding, healthcare information technology, medical office administration, and healthcare management.

Originally from Aberdeen, S.D., Rohrbach decided to attend DSU because he felt the program would give him the most knowledge of information systems that he would be using on a daily basis.

“I chose Dakota State University because of their rich history as a leader in technology for not just local colleges, but also on the national level,” he said.

As an undergraduate, Rohrbach learned time management and the importance of building impactful relationships with mentors, teachers, and peers.

“The individuals you surround yourself with will contribute to your success both academically and professionally more than you may think,” he said.

Throughout his education, Rohrbach has found his professional practice course to be his favorite., This is a supervised experience at a healthcare facility, that he took during the summer between his sophomore and junior years.

“This course gave me real-life, hands-on experience in a HIIM department and helped show me what I wanted to do when I got out of school and what I may want to steer away from,” Rohrbach said.

What he enjoyed the most about his time at DSU was the people he met and formed relationships with.

“My time in both classes and on the football team helped to shape me into a lifelong learner and a lifelong Trojan,” he said.

Additionally, his undergraduate degree prepared him for the systems and languages used in his current role as an informatics specialist in the health statistics and performance department at the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services, where he works remotely.

“My classes have given me a great understanding of the future of health informatics and the current challenges that the field is facing,” he explained.

His positive experience earning his bachelor’s degree encouraged Rohrbach to continue his education by earning his master’s degree to expand professional opportunities.

“Getting my master’s degree has been amazing,” he said. “The classes are more research-focused, and I find that both challenging and rewarding.”

Rohrbach hopes to continue building his knowledge in the field of HIIM and potentially pursue his doctorate in information systems to contribute research and studies to the field.

“I would strongly recommend DSU’s HIIM program to others in the industry as the school and faculty will move mountains to ensure your success and education,” he said. “My professors have been so supportive and have helped me find internships and build my confidence in myself and my education.”

Dakota State University HIIM programs

At Dakota State University, students interested in HIIM have a variety of certificates and programs to choose from. Students can earn certificates in health care coding or health information specialist, in addition to associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in HIIM. DSU is one of two U.S. schools to have its associate, bachelor’s and master’s HIIM degrees all accredited by the Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM). 

All DSU’s HIIM programming is stackable, meaning the credits earned through certificates can be applied to an associate degree and so on.

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