Erin Blockhus’ quick rise into a top position of professional expertise – within only one year of graduation from Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Health Information Technology (HIT) program – serves as a case study in the value of adaptability to change, networking, and staying true to a lifelong learner mindset.
After graduating from the Calmar campus program in May 2013, Blockhus successfully transformed a professional practical experience and internship into a full-time position as a medical scribe for Mercy Medical Center Cardiology Clinic in Cedar Rapids. Blockhus has clearly found her niche in the field; she’s the only Registered Health Information Technologist (RHIT) certified medical scribe in Mercy Medical Center and the only medical scribe in the cardiology clinic.
RHITs use the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) coding system to document patient medical histories, diagnoses and medical procedures prescribed by physicians and to establish a digital record for every patient, primarily for reimbursement and billing/insurance processes. The ICD is the standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes.
“I work closely with Dr. Cam Campbell, who started his own practice at Iowa City Heart Center about 25 years ago and expanded his practice to include Cedar Rapids Heart Center. In June 2013 he moved his practice to the Mercy Clinic,” Blockhus explained. “I work literally shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Campbell, recording the patient’s problem list, medical history and diagnosis information. I’m like his extra ears, and it’s a busy day for us. We see 17-20 patients every day in the cardiology clinic.”
Her career as a medical scribe for the clinic was a “steep learning curve” at first, but her ongoing focus on learning more and refining her skills are making a difference.
“A medical scribe has to draw upon her coding knowledge, yet must also understand physicians’ terms, think like a physician and think like a lawyer, so other physicians who are reading my work know exactly what I’m recording,” Blockhus shared. “What I do is really fun. I would like to add more scribes to the system and open up the doorway for other RHITs to do what I do – to get this going,” she said.
As an NICC alumna, Blockhus credits much of her post-graduation success to the comprehensiveness of the HIT program and the NICC instructors who have such a passion for teaching students.
“Amanda Stortz and Jennifer Olson (Calmar campus HIT and health faculty members) are amazing. I cannot count how many times I have thanked them. I wouldn’t be where I am today in the medical field without them,” she said.
Blockhus and her husband, Bob, have three children – Ashlyn, Gage and Kyndall – and live in Cedar Rapids.
A career in health information technology combines the knowledge and skills from the disciplines of medicine, informatics, business and computer technology within the healthcare industry. Those employed in health information management must possess the skills to ensure that personal health information is maintained in a manner consistent with current medical, administrative, ethical, legal and regulatory requirements.