Health information managers are responsible for the maintenance and security of all patient records. As a result, it is important for them to keep up with current computer and software technology, as well as with legislative requirements. As patient data becomes more frequently used for quality management and in medical research, Health Information Management (HIM) professionals must ensure that databases are complete, accurate, and available only to authorized personnel. Indeed, it takes a detailed, organized and passionate individual to truly excel in the HIM world.
Sandy Routhier fits this mold and takes pride in her career. As a firm believer that quality health information is vital to quality health care, Routhier’s goal has always been to promote excellence and integrity through the information process, from the caregivers’ timely entries into the medical record to personal health records which are maintained by individuals. “I love the variety that I find in my job. I enjoy being a member of a team that works well together. Although I am not a direct caregiver, I honestly feel that I play a part in the quality of health care for our community members,” said Routhier.
Routhier is the HIM director and privacy officer for War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where she and her team are responsible for medical records, coding and utilization review. “I have been fortunate to work at my community hospital for the past 20 years doing a variety of jobs such as HIM director, revenue cycle director and information systems applications director. Working at a smaller facility has allowed me to be continuously exposed to all areas of HIM. I would be perfectly content to continue on in my current role at WMH,” she said. However content she may be, Routhier understands the ever-changing demands facing HIM professionals. In fact, she agrees that information management could see major shifts over the next several years.
Two of these changes are also challenges for the industry: the continued advancements toward an Electronic Health Record (EHR) and health care reform. She continues to look for opportunities to further advance her knowledge and skills in the field. Currently, she is serving as a clinical juror for the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT). The United States has a very complicated health care reimbursement system; the need for coding compliance, chargemaster maintenance, documentation improvement programs, and good working relationships between the revenue cycle departments are all vital for the financial health of Routhier’s facility. Her eight years in the hospital’s Information Systems department enabled her to be involved on a larger scale for what will one day lead the hospital to an EHR.
“My HIM background was invaluable in my IS role while implementing clinical and financial systems. I continue to be actively involved in IS projects,” she said. Routhier is a 2007 graduate of the University of Cincinnati Health Information Management program. After researching three programs offering the online B.S. degree she ultimately selected UC based on the design of the program and the positive interactions she had with all of the staff. A skeptic of online education at first, UC made her a believer through the quality of the course content and the interaction with fellow students and professors.
Raised in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she is married to her high school sweetheart, Pete, who is an elementary principal. The couple have had the pleasure of raising three beautiful daughters, Meghan (23, RN), Johanna (21, college student studying elementary education) and Ellen (18, college student studying graphic design). Outside of her passion for health information management, Routhier also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and volleyball. Additionally, she dreams of seeing a national health record before she retires. “I’ve never, not for one day, regretted my career decision!
Anyone seeking a job in health care who doesn’t want to be a hands-on caregiver, HIM is the right career for you. Take the time to explore the variety that HIM has to offer and network with your peers,” she said.