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Tech With Purpose: HITECH Grad Now Works for Cerner

Tina Hardin was a single mom looking for a challenge. One day, the answer just appeared in her inbox, and less than a year later, she had a new job that gave her the challenges she craved.

Hardin is a recent graduate of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) program, a new program offered at JCCC.

The purpose of HITECH is to train individuals with either some health care background or some informational technology background to meet the need for health information systems technicians.

Hardin was working in an independent laboratory when she saw the email for the HITECH program.

“I saw it and thought, ‘Why not?’” she said.

Her job was fine, she said. She’d worked there six years and had been quite happy. She just wanted something new. “I guess I had the six-year itch,” she said.

When Hardin signed up, she knew she had the background. (She had a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Pittsburg State University.) She knew she had the motivation. What she didn’t have was a clear idea of what she had signed up for.

“I didn’t really know what the program was about until the third class in. The first couple of classes were all about getting us ready. Then it just sort of clicked,” she said. “When I finally figured out the program was about fixing a broken system, that was when I really got into it. It was really fun.”

While she was taking the class, she started updating her resume and looking around for job opportunities. Many of the new health information technology (HIT) systems jobs will be on the East or West coasts, but Hardin didn’t want to move. She already had a house in Olathe and a 13-year-old daughter named Madison. She had roots.

“There’s no way I could have moved. Once Madison goes off to college, then maybe I’d be able to move. But not now,” she said.

One day while perusing the job posts, she saw an opening at Cerner Corporation. Its home office is in North Kansas City, and the job was local.

The process, Hardin said, was “superquick.” Three days after she sent Cerner a resume, she had an interview scheduled. About a week after the interview, Cerner managers offered her a job. She hadn’t even finished the HITECH program yet, but Cerner was willing to wait.

Hardin’s supervisor, Kent Wessely, said, “Tina’s general understanding of the federal legislation and the requirements that our clients must meet was the differentiator for her.”

Hardin said she loves her new job. “The workload is high at my job at Cerner, but I’m the sort of person who likes to do her job and not get interrupted. And that’s just how it is at Cerner,” she said.

Hardin matches medical codes from databases from Cerner clients (such as hospitals and clinics) to codes that are more universal. This process enables the client information systems to communicate with the information systems at the state health departments.

These codes reflect test results where certain organisms (say, malaria) might be present. If those organisms are indeed present, the results must be reported to public health under the law. Previously, however, it was accomplished through time-intensive processes subject to human error. (For example, someone would fill out a form by hand and fax it to a public health agency.)

Hardin’s new job makes the process automatic, so the program sends the necessary report, and fewer reports fall through the cracks.

“Some of our clients didn’t know about organisms they needed to report, so they would have never known to report it,” Hardin said.  “Now our solution takes the information and sends it automatically within a day.”

The point of her job is to comply with the “meaningful use” portion of HITECH legislation, which means that electronic health records must perform a worthwhile purpose that will improve health care information and/or health care in general.

Hardin uses her own words. “We work to improve quality, efficiency and safety in the health care system.”

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