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New RHIA Bachelors Program in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area

Until recently, the health information management community in the greater Washington D.C. Metro area had two options if it wanted to pursue an RHIA bachelors program. Students could travel to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia and continue their education at a university in those cities or enroll in an online program. Certainly, the available options were good but they were not necessarily aimed at students who already have an associate degree and would like stay close to home and also maintain a relationship with the college where they received their associate degree. Now there is another option.

After nearly two years of discussion and collaboration with the two-year Health Information Technology (HIT) and Health Information Management (HIM) programs in the area, DeVry University announced it is offering a Bachelors of Science in Technical Management with a concentration in Health Information Management. Now, for the first time, students in the area can transition from their associate program directly into local RHIA bachelors program and also transfer all of the credits from their associate degrees.

The idea to establish a bachelors RHIA program in the greater Washington D.C. Metro area was in the works for some time. In 2004  Brian Foley, Special Assistant to the President, Medical Education Campus, Northern Virginia Community College, and John Giancola, Dean of Academic Affairs, DeVry University, Crystal City campus entered into discussions about the healthcare field and what kinds of programs were needed.  They decided that the best way to make sure that the needs of the D.C. Metro community were well served was to bring the leaders of all of the HIT programs in the area together.

Shortly after Mr. Foley and Dean Giancola met and identified a need for a RHIA bachelors program, a group of educators met at Arlington, Virginia Campus of DeVry University. Directors, coordinators and faculty from metropolitan are Health Information technology programs got together to discuss mutual needs and how to forge an atmosphere of cooperation that would best serve the entire health information community including new and current students, previous graduates and life-long learners. All the two-year programs sent representatives including David Robinson, DeVry University, Barbra Hays and David Munch, Northern Virginia Community College; Sue Meiskey, Montgomery Community College; Betty Mitchell and Adele Mihm, Baltimore City Community College; Muriel Adams, Prince George’s Community College and Beth Shanholtzer, Hagerstown Business College. Collectively, the team reviewed the curriculums of each school an and made recommendations to DeVry as to how fashion a program plan that would enable every two- year program to articulate all of the associate degree credits into the DeVry University bachelors as well as meet all AHIMA’s requirements for a certified bachelors degree program.

The team was able to create a curriculum plan with 2 + 2 format. Students from any of the schools can use their certified associates as the first two years of the DeVry bachelors program. In addition, as long as students select courses from pre-approved list, they have the flexibility to take additional courses at the institution that awarded them their associate degree and apply them towards the DeVry University bachelors as well.  This enables students to take certain courses not directly related to HIM, like Introduction to Business or Advance Composition knowing that they will satisfy requirements for the DeVry bachelors. Since students know exactly what course work will be accepted by DeVry University, they have greater flexibility in managing their course work, which facilitates a smoother transition from the associate to the bachelors.

DeVry University also offers the flexibility of several course delivery formats including online and on-campus courses at its three D.C. metro locations.  Discussion is also underway with the two-year schools to create another option where DeVry’s faculty could teach some HIM on the two-year school campuses. The goal of academic consortium is to provide the most flexible and seamless pathway for students to progress from their associates to their bachelors degree.

After DeVry University worked with the two-year schools to develop a 2+2 framework and delivery system, it set to the task working with AHIMA to develop a bachelors program that could incorporate two years of course work from accredited two programs and offer the additional course work that would satisfy all of the requirements for an accredited RHIA bachelor’s degree in accordance AHIMA’s guidelines. After working closely with AHIMA to finalize its program offering, in May, 2006, DeVry University began offering a Bachelors of Science in Technical Management with a concentration in Health Information Management.

The availability of additional educational resources is timely for the greater D.C. Metro region. According to a 2005 study of the health care workforce shortage in northern Virginia conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and prepared for the Northern Virginia Health Care Workforce Alliance, “A shortage of health care workers exist in Northern Virginia. Health care providers are having difficulty in recruiting quality health care professionals.” The study further states that of the 24 job categories studied that the fourth most urgent need was for Medical Records and Health Information Managers. Without an influx of trained professionals more than 11% of the jobs in this category will go unfilled.

Thanks to the foresight, collegiate spirit, dedication and commitment of the HIM community in the Greater D.C. Metro, the future for HIM looks bright.

For more information on the DeVry University bachelors, visit

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