Talking HIM with Sharon Baker, CIHI’s Classification and Terminologies Manager
When Sharon Baker gets stuck in traffic, she often plays a game where she matches letters and numbers on license plates with codes for different medical conditions and procedures.
For Baker, who is Manager, Classifications and Terminologies — Development at CIHI, coding is a passion, even after 28 years in her field. “I’ve always loved number crunching and analysis,” she says. “I might not actually code anymore, but I’m still able to use what I learned and I’m more passionate about this field than ever. I have no plans to change what I’m doing. The inspiring piece of my work is realizing that the endeavors we put into delivering high-quality products, pays dividends in the work for Health Information Professionals across the country.”
Baker also has a unique perspective on the Canadian HIM scene, having moved to Canada from Wales over ten years ago. There, accreditation and further education was optional. Of CHIMA, she says, “Certification, ongoing education, and accreditation stands a Canadian health information professional in good stead and gives our role more credibility.”
While technology is changing the role of HIM professionals, Baker also believes that the knowledge and skill of coders will always be needed. “Coders will always play a vital role because of the wealth of knowledge and expertise they can bring to the table.”
At the same time, as her own career has demonstrated, HIM professionals can shape their own careers according to their interests. “An HIM education gives you a good cross-cutting of the fundamentals of health information. That means you can stay in a role as a coder, improving your skills, or you can diversify into analytics or quality, or even becoming an educator training other coders. The opportunities are there for you to tap into different areas and to make your own role interesting to you,” Baker adds.
One area of interest for Baker is the ability to tell stories with data, “translating” codes into information that provides funding to give patients the health care they deserve. She is also interested in understanding the data-based landscape of healthcare across the country and around the world. In her current role, she is responsible for assessing the impacts ICD-11 will have on the Canadian heath care system. As part of the Collaborating Centre for the World Health Organization Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC) for North America, she contributes to the work on the development, dissemination, maintenance, and use of the WHO-FIC’s reference classifications, and says, “I’ve been able to get involved in so many areas of health information around the world, to find out what other countries do, and to bring back what I’ve learned and apply it here.”