TORONTO – An online educational version of an abstracting and coding tool used by health information management departments across the country will now be available for student training at various colleges.
Ottawa-based software developer MED2020 Healthcare Software Inc. is joining forces with London, Ont.-based Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA) to make the tool available in seven colleges, including George Brown College in Toronto.
“We’ve taken our coding and abstracting software, used by nearly half of Canadian hospitals, and we’ve transformed it into a virtual coding tool to be used online by students in the programs,” said Michael Martineau, MED2020’s chief operating officer.
Students will be able to access the software via a dashboard similar to that used in a real hospital setting, said Martineau.
The partnership is an “investment in future health information management,” said Martineau, and complements MED2020’s approach to fostering user knowledge via hands-on training and forums. MED2020 will be donating the software licences to the colleges.
According to CHIMA project manager Cheryle Facey, affording students the use of such a software is important because it ensures a “standard and consistent strategy and methodology is undertaken in teaching diagnoses and procedural coding.”
Facey recalled her own student days back in the 1980s, when, she said, “I sure would have loved to have not had to go struggle with my director to find a practical placement to do all of my coding work.”
Echoing that sentiment, Heather Donovan, the coordinator for the centre for health sciences at George Brown College, said that placements in the area of coding are extremely difficult to find, leaving some students in a lurch. “This is a way for us to ensure they all get experience,” she said, adding that the software will “stimulate the environment” to allow students to hone their coding skills.
The announcement was made during a day-long event in Toronto where users participated in focus groups and software training. One user of MED2020’s flagship product, WinRecs, who attended the event was junior analyst Rizwan Sadruddin with Toronto-based rehabilitation facility Providence Healthcare. “I can do lots of reports, it offers lots of variety in the software,” said Sadruddin.
The facility’s information and performance group – which oversees decision support, clinical information and quality, among other functions – has been using WinRecs since 2004 to provide clinical information to various departments.
Before WinRecs, Providence Healthcare used a database that, according to Sadruddin, did not allow them to run analyses on the data. “We could not do any reports on that information for our future plans,” he said.
Besides the reporting capability, Sadruddin also likes the flexibility with which he can use the software. “If I think of something, I can do it by myself,” he said, explaining that with other vendor tools, one might have to approach the vendor to see if the task can even be performed, and then have to pay a cost for it.
Another user, Tanya Mathews, health information leader with Burlington, Ont.-based Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, said the facility has about 10 to 15 staff that use WinRecs. They use the software for a variety of functions including decision support, and have reaped accuracy and data quality, said Mathews.
The other colleges include Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C; Red River in Winnipeg; SAIT in Calgary; Moncton College in Moncton, N.B.; and SIAST in Wascana, Sask. Another college has yet to finalize its contract, said MED2020.