Investments in healthcare apprenticeships can offer substantal ROI, says AHIMA

As healthcare organizations look for ways to bolster their workforces for the many challenges of modern-day care delivery, the value of apprentices is often overlooked, says the AHIMA Foundation – notably in areas of information management such as coding and billing.

A recent issue of the Journal of AHIMA profiles providers who are meeting their workforce needs with apprenticeship programs.

The benefits of these programs – which create more qualified professionals to hire, help with upskilling existing employees and increase retention rates – shouldn’t be overlooked, according to AHIMA, which notes that, in some cases, apprenticeship initiatives have led to benefits for the financial bottom line.

Specifically, it notes how AHIMA Foundation apprenticeships have helped address staffing needs at 100 employers nationwide over the past four years, and in other cases have enabled healthcare providers to upskill current employees since.

The AHIMA Foundation is one of less than four-dozen public-private partnerships awarded a grant through the U.S. Department of Labor to expand high-quality apprenticeship programs that combine education with on-the-job experience. It received nearly $5 million for its Managing the Talent Pipeline in Health Information Apprenticeship Program.

The list of healthcare jobs it can help fill and upskill is long and varied, including clinical documentation improvement specialists, data analysts, medical and clinical lab techs, privacy and security officers and more.

The journal article shows how these apprenticeships have helped hospitals boost revenue thanks to more compliant billing from better-trained coders, for instance, while also improving recruitment and retention of top-qualified staffers and helping small and rural facilities with their training and employee education.

For example, the article, profiles Karen Hatch, medical records director and privacy officer at Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center in Fruita, Colorado.

Upon the closing of that health system’s long-term care facility, Hatch recognized that the apprenticeship program could offer an opportunity for its certified nursing assistants and medical assistants – helping them transition from their old patient care roles to open medical coding and billing positions at the hospital.

“We benefit because we don’t need to hire someone new, and we know the training they’ve received,” said Hatch. “They can step right into positions for which they’re qualified.”

She conceded that many healthcare organizations might shy away from apprenticeships, wary that the employees will simply leave for new positions after completing the program, but said so far that Colorado Canyons had seen the opposite: “What we’re finding is that when you give them this opportunity, they know you have their best interest in mind, and they’re likely to be more loyal and stay,” Hatch told the Journal of AHIMA.

“It is essential that HIM professionals have the knowledge and skills needed to lead their organizations in improving the quality of patient care through the accessibility of accurate and trusted health data,” said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris, in statement. “The AHIMA Foundation apprenticeship program provides an important avenue for healthcare organizations to identify and train employees to meet these goals.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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