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Curtin set to fill shortfall in clinical coding workers

Media release

Curtin University’s Faculty of Health Sciences is set to reduce the shortfall in Australia’s clinical coding workforce, as recently highlighted in a national report.

Findings from a major workforce paper, ‘The coding workforce shortfall,’ released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last month revealed there is a huge workforce demand for Health Information Managers and Clinical Coders.

Coders work in the health service to provide the health and ageing departments with information about the activity occurring within hospitals. They use data recorded about patients — from when they are first admitted to hospital, the treatments they receive, any complications and discharge information — to apply alpha-numeric codes.

“These codes follow stringent standards and significant training is required to understand the standards and know how to apply them,” Kerryn Butler-Henderson, Course Coordinator of the Health Information Management and Health Informatics program area at Curtin University, said.

Curtin University is the only provider of tertiary clinical coding training in Western Australia.

Curtin is also the only tertiary institution offering this area of study through distance education. Commencing in 2012, Curtin will also offer a Master of Health Information Management and a Graduate Certificate of Clinical Classification in addition to the already established Bachelor of Science (Health Information Management).

“A major benefit that Curtin students enjoy is from the strong industry links we have, enabling them to gain valuable practical experience through guest presenters, field trips and on-site placements,” she said.

In light of increasing pressures to deliver quality health services, the National Performance Agreement on Hospital and Healthcare Reform has proposed the introduction of an Activity Based Funding (ABF) model. This will require a larger and more productive coding workforce as coded data provides the source of many of the performance reporting and measurement targets nationally.

“Currently, there’s already a shortfall of 175 full-time equivalent clinical coders,” Ms Butler-Henderson said.

“With the introduction of the ABF, an additional 193 coders will be required to meet workforce demand.

“We are working closely with the Department of Health in a number of states to meet workforce demands, and to ensure that our graduates are of the highest quality and have relevant industry experience.

“We’re confident Curtin University will be able to provide high-level training to meet these needs on a national basis.”

Curtin is also looking at introducing an accelerated learning pathway, so that existing coders who have been out in the workforce and have no formal qualifications, are able to receive a year’s credit on the three-year bachelor degree.

Contacts:

Kerryn Butler-Henderson, Health Information Management and Health Informatics, School of Public Health, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 7531,  Email: K.Butler-Henderson@exchange.curtin.edu.au

Teresa Belcher, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085, Email: teresa.belcher@curtin.edu.au

Web: http://curtin.edu.au

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