After Christian Krah became the first graduate of the University of Wisconsin Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology (UW HIMT) program, Aurora Health Care hired him immediately. Now, he spends his workdays doing what he loves—implementing and supporting electronic health record (EHR) applications in an Aurora clinic.
With his bachelor’s degree and an Epic credential, Christian enjoys appealing career opportunities as a sought-after health information technology (HIT) professional. He could build software at Epic headquarters or he could become an Epic consultant who travels to hospitals and assists in Epic system implementations. These positions are lucrative—in 2013, the average Epic consultant made $139,000.
A tech whiz in the healthcare world
Aurora Health Care, a network of hospitals and clinics in eastern Wisconsin, is one of the state’s largest private-sector employers. Christian works in the Green Bay office, implementing and supporting the EpicCare Ambulatory Electronic Medical Record application created by Epic, the maker of popular EHR systems in large hospitals. He teaches doctors, nurses, and providers how to use the patient care software application and answers any questions that come up after the training.
“Truthfully, teaching the application can be difficult, but every day presents a new challenge,” Christian says. “The learning never stops, and that’s what makes my job so intriguing.”
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His bachelor’s degree—the foundation for an impressive career
Christian has lived in Green Bay his whole life, and for most of it, dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. He played basketball in college while earning an associate degree in arts and science but always knew he needed to decide on a long-term career.
“The learning never stops, and that’s what makes my job so intriguing.”
“I liked working with computers, but health care and its many career opportunities also beckoned me. My mom is a nurse and my dad is an IT professional, so I ended up combining their careers to find the perfect one for me.”
The HIMT program caught Christian’s eye when he searched for bachelor’s degrees in health on the UW-Green Bay website. “The online format and subject matter were the right fit for me.” He began his first course in 2012.
The other big draw was that UW HIMT is a degree-completion program. “Because admissions accepted transfer credits from my associate degree program, all of my general education requirements were fulfilled. I was able to finish my bachelor’s degree in HIMT in just two years.”
A specialized HIT track
The HIMT curriculum offers a choice of two tracks—HIT and health information management (HIM). Christian chose the HIT track, which focuses on information systems implementation and operations as well as health data analysis. A concentration on HIT provided the skills he needed to manage clinical IT systems used to capture, analyze, and report the data.
“I got just as much out of the online UW Health Information Management and Technology courses as I would in a classroom.”
The HIM track focuses more on managing health information operations and personnel as well as clinical data. “For years, I was a leader on my sports teams,” Christian says, “but I never wanted to go into management. I am suited to working with technology and computers, and that’s why the HIT track was perfect.”
When he first looked into UW HIMT, Christian was concerned about the quality of online courses. But the program surprised him.
“I got just as much out of the online UW Health Information Management and Technology courses as I would in a classroom,” he says. “Online learning has so many benefits. Courses, lectures, and quizzes were set up really well, discussions allowed me to interact with other students, and I could learn at my own pace.”
Christian worked part time while he was a student, and his variable schedule would have made a traditional on-campus program impossible. The flexibility of the online HIMT program allowed him to watch lectures and do schoolwork at home on his days off.
“The HIMT capstone project definitely helped me get my foot in the door”
Possibly the most crucial part of the HIMT program for Christian was the final course, the capstone. Students are required to find and complete a semester-long project from which they can gain hands-on experience in either HIM or HIT.
Christian spent 15 weeks completing his capstone at Bellin Health Care Systems working side by side with health information professionals. He helped design and lay out an application to track and predict population health in Green Bay. Though he was unable to finish the application—it still needed to be built when the semester ended—Christian says it was a stepping stone to the career he has today.
“The HIMT capstone project definitely helped me get my foot in the door. I was able to experience the real world of health information technology and make some important connections in the field.”
Epic certification opens up even more high-paying career opportunities
Because of his close work with application software at Aurora, Christian was nominated for Epic certification, a process that requires hands-on work with one or more Epic projects. Aurora paid for Epic training in Milwaukee, after which Christian passed several tests demonstrating his proficiency in the Ambulatory module of Epic software.
Make no mistake—the credentialing process is tough, and the demand for these Epic-certified professionals is sky-high.
“Having a bachelor’s degree in HIMT definitely helped me,” Christian says. “After taking HIT courses, I felt prepared for the Epic credentialing process.”
He plans to go back for more training and additional credentials in Epic Beacon and Epic Stork.
Improving patient care with HIT expertise
Christian highly recommends the HIMT program to those who are enthusiastic about upcoming technology and the advancement of health care.
“I love being able to use my HIT knowledge to make sure patients receive the best care we can possibly give,” he says.
Find out more about the online HIMT bachelor’s degree program by visiting the main page of the UW Health Information Management and Technology website. Then call 1-877-UW-LEARN (895-3276) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with one of our friendly enrollment advisers about your career goals and whether this program is the right fit for you.