From Idaho to Capitol Hill: Advocating for the Future of Health Information Technology


At the Idaho State University College of Technology, the Health Information Technology (HIT) program is setting a new standard for educational excellence and advocacy in the healthcare field. With a robust curriculum that prepares students for the complexities of health information systems, the program stands at the forefront of integrating medical, legal, and regulatory knowledge with practical skills.

Rhonda Ward, a clinical instructor with the ISU College of Technology’s HIT program and the current president of the Idaho Health Information Management Association (IdHIMA), recently participated in a pivotal event in Washington, D.C. on March 11 and 12. This visit marked a significant step for the program, demonstrating its role in national conversations about healthcare policy and the future of health information management.

“The active engagement of our faculty in national discussions and leadership roles not only showcases the real-world impact and relevance of our HIT program but also enriches the educational experience for our students,” said Darin Jernigan, co-chair of the Health Occupations Department at the ISU College of Technology. “We’re not just teaching health information technology; we’re shaping the future of healthcare itself, ensuring our graduates are not only skilled technicians but also well-informed participants in their field.”

Ward’s recent trip to Washington D.C. was part of the AHIMA Advocacy Summit 2024, aiming to address key policy issues related to health data and information. The summit provided a platform for bringing together industry leaders, policymakers, and educators like Ward to highlight the importance of improvements in health information access, quality, and integrity.

In her capacity as the president of IdHIMA, Ward highlighted significant challenges and opportunities in the health information management sector, particularly emphasizing the purpose of the Patient Match IT Act of 2024 and the need for Upskilling the Health Information Workforce in the Age of AI. These initiatives are crucial for enhancing patient safety and ensuring accurate patient identification, which can be life-saving in scenarios where patients with similar names are admitted under emergency conditions. Moreover, her efforts on raising awareness for setting standards for AI and machine learning in healthcare is aimed at preparing the nonclinical workforce for the technological advancements shaping the future of healthcare.

“Everyone is a patient at some point in their life and this Patient Matching Act affects everyone,” said Ward. “Collaborating with stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem, including policymakers, healthcare providers, IT vendors, patient advocacy groups, and professional associations is crucial to patient safety and favorable patient outcomes. It was a good feeling to think that I was making a difference in patients’ lives and healthcare outcomes by informing Idaho’s leaders about these crucial topics.”

The HIT program at the ISU College of Technology offers a comprehensive approach to education, emphasizing the maintenance, compilation, and analysis of health data. Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, the program boasts a notable success rate, with 89% of graduates either employed or continuing their education. It provides various pathways for students, including a three-semester Intermediate Technical Certificate in Medical Coding, an Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology and Bachelor degrees in Health Science or Applied Science, all designed to meet the industry’s needs and standards. Beyond its educational offerings, the program facilitates a direct path for students to engage with the broader professional community. Graduates are well-prepared for the Registered Health Information Technician exam, further solidifying their readiness for the field.

Through dedicated education, advocacy, and leadership, the Health Information Technology program at ISU College of Technology is actively contributing to the evolution of healthcare, preparing its students not just for today’s challenges but for tomorrow’s opportunities.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *