From time spent as an intern to now being the founder of a revenue cycle consulting service, Susan Gatehouse has learned the value of collaboration.

To give you an idea of how much the industry has changed over the years, when I graduated in 1990, health information management (HIM) was referred to as “medical records.” At that time, the choices were limited in terms of management of health records, coding of disease processes, and the prescribed treatment (or transcription).Today, there is an array of options for those embarking on a career in HIM. 

My journey in healthcare started in Atlanta, Georgia, where I ventured for my primary internship. From that point, I had job offers that placed me in an ideal position to determine the nuts and bolts of coding, as well as its application and use. At the genesis of my career, I found it essential to gather as much experience as possible to learn the skill set necessary to advance and expand my foundation of understanding related to HIM. Therefore, I worked a permanent full-time job, along with part-time evening jobs at different hospitals, which allowed for coding in a diverse patient population. This work was invaluable to me in further advancing my knowledge, network, and future opportunities.

Other than the hands-on experience, I had what I consider to be phenomenal mentors who shepherded me along the way. After two years, I was recruited by a consulting firm, and had the opportunity to travel around the U.S. addressing issues regarding data accuracy. It was valuable life experience, and an opportunity that furthered my depth of knowledge. I found that it was important to be in the weeds of the day-to-day management of the processing and application of data. It allowed me to see the issues organizations experience from a different lens.

After two years, I was recruited by a company to start a data delivery center that supplied coding to various hospitals nationwide. Later, I moved into the physician side of reimbursement, as well as reimbursement in the outpatient arena. This allowed me to round out my experience in all clinical settings in terms of the data, its importance, and how it impacts organizations in a multitude of ways.

I founded Axea Solutions, Inc. in 1998, based on a consistent request by organizations for help in uncovering issues affecting the revenue cycle, which led to the realization that there was a great need to provide integrity-driven quality service.

The healthcare environment is continuously changing, with new technology; it is reshaping the industry in many ways. Though it in not uncommon for one to view new technologies such as the automated coding environment as a threat to job security, on the contrary, I believe it will provide an opportunity at a different level. The knowledge and expertise of the healthcare information professional will always be needed, regardless of the automated environment, though how we are required to apply that knowledge certainly may change. Change is inevitable, and we healthcare professionals must continue to adapt to it, forecast it, and most importantly, thrive within it.

Through my many years in healthcare, one thing I’ve learned is the value of collaboration, as it’s been at the core of Axea’s corporate culture and has been critical to its evolution and growth. And this value transcends into peer collaboration. There is unmeasurable yet tangible value from relationships, knowledge, and business networking that comes from involvement with industry associations. Engaging and collaborating with other healthcare professionals is essential, and few organizations provide a better platform for that than the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). 

I would encourage anybody contemplating this field, just starting their career, or any seasoned professional to immerse themselves in industry events and happenings, arm themselves with knowledge, and look at the road ahead as one that will continue to expand and change exponentially. 

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