Heather Hedlund, RHIA, CHPS
Compliance and Privacy Manager, South Shore Health System (SSHS)
One aspect of HIM not often realized by new professionals is the range of positions that a Health Information Management program prepares you for. One of our members with a varied career is Heather Hedlund. We sat down with Heather to hear the story of her career so far.
“My first “real job” after graduating was at MEDITECH where I stayed for 18 years. I wanted to use my HIM education and experience in a more non-traditional way. I was still able to work every day with hospitals and HIM departments, but in an Information Technology role,” according to Heather. “I continued in various IT positions, including at the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI), where I worked with providers across the state, assisting them implement electronic health records in order to obtain their Meaningful Use incentive payments. This role allowed me to become more involved with HIPAA privacy and security, which led me to obtain my second AHIMA credential, CHPS. From that time on, my career focus was on HIPAA, and now with a more expanded role in Compliance.”
When asked how she came to study HIM in the first place, Heather explains “As a recent high school graduate in the 80s, I knew I wanted to attend Northeastern University because of their co-op program, and I knew I had an interest in the healthcare field, but that was about it. I was looking through the Northeastern catalogue and just happened to come across something called ‘Health Information Administration.’ I didn’t know what that was all about, but the courses sounded right up my alley; lots of science classes and management classes. I thought that was a great combination so I enrolled, graduated, and became an RHIA!”
Having stepped away from HIM for a couple years, Heather recently returned to a challenging position with South Shore Health System. “In my role as Compliance and Privacy Manager, I am responsible for managing various components of the hospital and health system’s Compliance Program. I also act as the compliance and privacy liaison to the health system’s off-campus locations, including South Shore VNA, Hospice of the South Shore, and the South Shore Medical Center locations. I collaborate with leadership throughout the organization to identify and address potential risk areas through an internal audit process. Another area I am responsible for is bringing compliance and privacy awareness, education and training to all SSHS colleagues and medical staff.”
Heather has been an active MaHIMA volunteer for most of her career. “Another important aspect of my HIM career is my involvement with MaHIMA. The organization is a great way to network and get involved with a specific area of interest. In my case it was Legislative Affairs. I have served as Committee Chair and instituted our Beacon Hill Day program which ran for 10 years at the State House. Those that know me well know that politics is a ‘hobby’ of mine!”
Does Heather have any words of wisdom to offer new professionals? “My advice to anyone entering the HIM field is to explore the many areas where your HIM knowledge, experience, and credentials can be utilized and valued. I did not follow the “traditional” HIM career path, but all of my experiences built upon each other to prepare me for each next phase of my career. There’s so much opportunity out there for HIM professionals. Think outside the box and you’ll find your perfect fit!”