HIM professionals in policing: Applying current skills in new sectors

HIM professionals in policing: Applying current skills in new sectors

Information management has evolved over the centuries as humans have developed ways to store and organize information. Today, with the explosion of digital information, businesses, organizations, and institutions rely on information management to make informed decisions and achieve their goals.

Information management professionals organize, store, and retrieve an organization’s data. These professionals work in health care, libraries, technology firms, and policing, amongst others. Some of their duties include:

  • developing and implementing data management systems,
  • assessing data security and integrity, and
  • analyzing data to build reports and visualizations.

In Ontario, the Waterloo Regional Police Service hires information management professionals into a variety of positions to analyze information, ensure compliance with privacy legislation, handle access to information requests, and maintain information accuracy for conducting investigations, laying charges, and informing decisions. “Policing is a very information management-heavy industry, and we require professionals to help us manage the information from collection all the way through to disposal,” says Director of Administrative Support Kate Richardson.

Richardson is responsible for police information management and related systems, court administration and operations, evidence management, and access to information and privacy. She notes that policing and the justice system (like the health care system) accumulate vast amounts of personal information to investigate and prosecute crimes. Therefore, they are heavily regulated in their collection, usage, retention, and disposal of information and, as such, are accountable to oversight regulations. These include the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), the Criminal Records Act (CRA), and the Police Services Act (PSA).

For these reasons, the Waterloo Regional Police Service values the skills of health information management professionals. Richardson says they became aware of graduates from the Bachelor of Applied Health Information Science program at Conestoga College with similar skill sets and knowledge they needed (e.g., information management systems, the importance of data quality, data privacy and security, etc.). Currently, they have hired graduates from Conestoga and are “targeting specific skill sets,” seeking information management professionals to manage data and information.

Regarding their handling of privacy issues, Richardson says they conduct regular privacy assessments, schedule training for their staff, set protocols to mitigate privacy risks, and have an entire team dedicated to administering the MFIPPA. While noting the importance of technology and artificial intelligence in automating processes and eliminating multiple data entries, Richardson says data standardization, retention policies, and privacy assessments will continue to “need human intervention.”

Melissa Pavao, access to information analyst at the Waterloo Regional Police Service, is a graduate of the Bachelor of Applied Health Information Science program at Conestoga. Before her employment at the Waterloo Regional Police Service, Melissa worked as an electronic medical record (EMR) data specialist and an integrated privacy specialist at a primary care facility and a hospital. During her education at Conestoga, Melissa had learned of the intersections between health information and various sectors but had not envisioned working within policing or the justice system. Melissa recalls feeling “like I met so many of the job posting requirements and qualifications.” Although working in a new industry was of some concern, Melissa has discovered that the terrain is quite familiar: “There has been a bit of [a] learning curve related to things like industry terms, acronyms, information technology (IT) systems, as well as overall structure and function. Yet, I feel as though I have been able to hit the ground running. Within my first couple of weeks, I cannot count the number of times I […] said to myself, ‘that’s exactly what we did at the hospital.’”

In today’s fast-paced world, effective and efficient information management is critical for law enforcement organizations. With a growing volume of data and complex investigations, modernizing information management systems can provide law enforcement with a powerful tool to make informed decisions, enhance investigations, and improve community safety. Richardson observes that the pandemic “spurred modernization of information systems” and processes, including handling digital evidence and formatting case files for courts. She also emphasizes the importance of documenting processes and standards, data cleansing, regular staff training, and quality control and audits to ensure their information is accurate. This is why certified health information professionals are needed within their operations: “They understand the why; we don’t have to train them. They’ve already developed that skill [and] understand the importance of the quality of the data.”

Scan the QR code on the right to see job opportunities at the Waterloo Regional Police Service

Richardson believes there is an abundance of opportunities for health information management professionals to provide data quality assessments for policing and the justice system. Melissa has been “pleasantly surprised” by how she’s been able to transfer her skills from health care into the justice system, observing that the trends and practices are the same, although applied in different environments. She urges health information professionals to explore working in non-traditional industries like policing, noting the importance of keeping an open mind: “Please know that you have the knowledge and skills—the foundation is undoubtedly there.”

With their knowledge of electronic health records (EHRs), coding systems, and data privacy regulations, certified health information management (CHIM) professionals can help organizations to develop and implement more effective information systems and provide insights into trends and data management. Their abilities continue to put them in high demand in health care and beyond. CEO and Registrar of CHIMA and the College Jeff Nesbitt commented on this at a recent outing, highlighting the growing recognition that CHIM professionals contribute to public trust through standards in health data literacy.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service is currently recruiting. They offer a flexible work program, including some options for remote work, compressed work week schedules, and flexible hours, which vary by position. They also offer a competitive salary and an attractive benefits package, which includes access to onsite fitness facilities and employee wellness programs. Scan the QR code in the image above or click the button below.

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