HIMAA calls on Curtin to reconsider axeing of master's degree

The Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA) has called on Curtin University to reconsider its decision to withdraw its graduate entry master's degree in health information management (HIM).

HIMAA CEO Richard Lawrance said the course was the only graduate entry health information management qualification by distance learning available in those states that offer no university education in the occupation, including NSW, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

Mr Lawrance said the decision will see an end to nationwide access to professional credentialing for health information managers and clinical coders.

“It’s a confounding decision from an institution that offers such a proud history in health information management education,” Mr Lawrance said.

Last year, the university announced it was reviewing its academic workforce to create two new specialist positions, one focused on teaching and the other on research, as part of its plans to become a more prestigious, research-intensive institution.

Mr Lawrance said that in September last year, Curtin gave the impression that only poorly or non-performing courses might be under threat from its workforce review. He said the HIM course, along with a master's in public health course, were the School of Public Health's most successful master's degrees.

He said information management provides the key to the systems improvements necessary in Australia’s health services if the country is to address the spiralling cost of healthcare.

“Government has recognised for over a decade that continuity of quality care is crucial to the reduction of healthcare expenditure,” he said.

“Continuity is not possible without the transfer of high quality, accurate and timely information between health practitioners, and between hospital and primary care sectors.

“And cost reduction is not possible without the translation of that information into a form that makes enough sense to funding authorities to ensure the right resources get to the right quality point of care.

“It’s the health information profession, particularly the occupations of health information manager and clinical coder, who provide that systems linkage.”

He said research had shown that the loss of a degree course in a particular state can lead to HIM workforce shortages, role substitution and downward pressure on existing health information managers and clinical coders.

“A national distance learning option alone provides the safeguard continuity of HIM supply to the health industry in a context of variable state and territory education and training supply,” he said.

HIMAA had approached the university, the WA government and the federal government for a review of the decision to axe the course, but Mr Lawrance said the response from the federal ministers for health and education was “more than disappointing”.

Curtin University has committed to seeing current students through to completion. Mr Lawrance said there was thus time for the university to reconsider its decision.

Curtin University has been approached for comment.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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