Same Time Next Year: Why HealthlinkNY’s Crystal Felker Returns to SUNY Broome to Take to Health IT Students Each Year about HIEs

April 27th, 2016 - Every year, Crystal Felker, Senior Director of Programs and Regional Director of the Southern Tier at HealthlinkNY, returns to her alma mater, SUNY Broome Community College in Binghamton, to tell health information technology students about what life is like out in the real world. Her message to students:

“Understanding HIEs and their importance will be an essential part of your job. As future registered health information technicians embark on careers, you will learn very quickly just how much HIEs will influence your work in health information management and medical records.”

Registered Health Information Technicians (RHITs) are responsible for accurately compiling and protecting patient health records, and HIEs now give RHITs access to patient records both inside and outside their provider organization, with patient consent.

“The good news is that providers now have a more complete view of their patients across multiple settings,” she says. “And HealthlinkNY can connect providers to the HIE so that patient records from other providers can download right into a patient’s electronic health record, or EHR. RHITs who understand HIEs will be able to help leverage that connectivity to improve patient care.”

A More Complete Picture of the Patient

Ms. Felker, who graduated from the Broome College’s Health Information Technology (AAS) Degree program in 2011, earned her RHIT certification and was soon hired by HealthlinkNY, a Qualified Entity (QE) designed by New York State to operate the regional HIE in the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley. Although one does not need to have earned an RHIT to work at a QE, it is extremely helpful.

“An RHIT has a comprehensive understanding of patient records, both on paper and electronic, and its uses — this is incredibly valuable to a regional HIE operator,” Ms. Felker explains. She adds that HIT students at SUNY Broome, most of whom go on to earn an RHIT, receive specialized training in privacy and confidentiality, auditing and compliance, electronic data security, HIPAA regulations, analytics, and other complex issues that are an integral part of HIE recordkeeping.

However, one of the most important things an RHIT can do is be an “evangelist” to maximize the value of patient record look-up.

“RHITs often find themselves in a role where they can influence how the provider’s office operates,” Ms. Felker says. “Understanding and promoting HIE adoption could be crucial to the organization’s success, especially as more federal and state programs require interoperability among providers,” she says. “In our changing health care arena — in which more federal and state programs require interoperability among providers — registered health information technicians who are familiar with the nuances of HIE will be of particular value to their health care employers.”

A Dedicated Alumna

Ms. Felker’s presentation to seniors in the senior seminar is just one of many ways that she gives back to SUNY Broome’s HIT program. She assists in program development as a member of the department’s HIT Advisory Board; tutors students enrolled in the Medical Terminology course, and serves as a clinical advisor to students. Ask her why she is such a devoted alumna, and she’ll tell you that having knowledgeable partners within provider organizations is likely to accelerate provider participation with HealthlinkNY. “That is why I personally, and HealthlinkNY as an organization, maintain a strong relationship with the local colleges and universities,” she says. “Teaching future RHITs about HIEs benefits them; but it also benefits us.”