There is nothing Sara Grostick enjoys more than seeing one of her Health Information Management Program students graduate from UAB and do great things.
|Sarah Grostick (left) and Shannon Houser were honored by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) for achievement in health information management at the AHIMA’s 79th Convention in Philadelphia in October. Grostick received the 2007 Educator award and Houser received the Research award.|
So imagine her joy in watching one of those students be recognized for her work “up close and personal.”
Grostick was afforded that opportunity recently when both she and Shannon Houser, Ph.D., were honored by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) for achievement in health information management at the AHIMA’s 79th Convention in Philadelphia in October.
Grostick, an associate professor of health information management, is the recipient of the 2007 Educator award. Houser, assistant professor of health information management, received the 2007 Research award.
“It is wonderful to see her receive the research award,” says Grostick, who recently retired but still works part time at UAB.
Houser says receiving her award with Grostick was special.
“To receive my award at the same time as my mentor was a great honor,” Houser says.
Blazing a trail
Grostick and Houser, who work in the UAB School of Health Professions, have blazed an impressive trail through the health information management field. Grostick was honored for her leadership in transitioning UAB’s traditional HIM program into an online/distance program that met the needs of students. Houser is well-known within and beyond the HIM profession. She serves the profession as a scholar and professor in UAB’s program and is co-investigator of research projects related to HIM methodologies and patient follow up for various diseases and conditions.
Grostick says the Department of Health Services Administration secured funding to develop online courses in 1999 from an Office of the Provost grant submitted by Donna Slovensky, Ph.D. That enabled them to purchase the needed equipment and hire a technical person to help faculty adapt their courses for online instruction.
“Teaching courses online is totally different from teaching in the classroom,” Grostick says. “I think the biggest challenge was transitioning the courses to the online format. We had the hardware and the software to develop interesting and appealing courses, but at that time some of the students we wanted to attract did not have the hardware to support advanced audio and video techniques.
“One of the things we had to make sure was that the course was accessible to all students. Now our courses are more sophisticated as current students have more advanced computer hardware and applications.”
Grostick also has played a key role in developing a graduate-level program in health informatics. AHIMA wants entry-level positions for HIM programs to be at the master’s level by 2016. Kay Clements, program director for UAB’s Bachelor’s of Science HIM program, and the BSHIM faculty are developing goals this year to position the program in line with AHIMA requirements.
“This will open opportunities to recruit students nationally and internationally at the graduate level,” Grostick says.
Houser is a principal investigator for a grant funded by AHIMA titled “Improving HIM practice standards: Releasing health information under the HIPAA Privacy Rule,” and also examined the potential impact of HIPAA on delay or denial of patient information from healthcare facilities in another study.
The study examines barriers and problems that are emerging in release of health information under the HIPAA Privacy Rule from healthcare facilities – an issue affecting HIM professionals daily. Houser examined the impact of the rule on release of patient information among HIM professionals from 1,300 health care facilities nation wide.
“We have found that there are new barriers and problems related to release of patient information under the privacy rule that need to addressed and corrected,” Houser says.
“HIM professionals hold a central role in the HIPAA implementation, in addition to their involvement in the development of policies that affect all healthcare professionals within their organizations relative to patient information,” Houser says. “With authorization and within the confines of existing laws, they have released that information to third parties ranging from health professionals, other health care organizations, families and to other members of the public.”
The HIPAA Privacy Rule attempts to address deficiencies in these processes. In doing so, there were problems in implementation and interpretation of the intent of the law.
“This research is attempting to document some of the natural and unintended consequences of making this change,” Houser says. “The findings suggest there is need for more clarification of the law, and more specific standardized instructions for across departments, providers, and public communications. This information can in turn be used to encourage changes in both the law and regulations related to the law to enhance the efficient and effective release of patient information authorized by patients.”
Houser is a three-time UAB graduate, receiving her Ph.D. in Health Behavior in 2004. She began working in Preventive Medicine in 1995 as a clinical data analyst involved in research studies. She accepted her faculty position in 2004, enabling her to combine knowledge for all of her degrees to teach courses in research methods, statistics and epidemiology to undergraduates in health information management and health sciences.
The position also has enabled her to be more involved with AHIMA and be involved in research studies related to HIM issues. She says her colleagues have been an invaluable resource for her every step of the way.
“I am very fortunate to work with a group of HIM professionals at UAB who have been in the field for several decades,” she says. “Their dedication and contribution to the HIM field has helped me in my research and teaching work.”