AUGUST is far from being a ghost month – it is a month of trailblazing. I took my oath last August 4 as undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and immediately went to work on the same day. With a grateful heart, I am full of determination to perform to the best of my ability to live up to the expectations of my employers – the Filipino citizens. I am also thankful for the trust and confidence showed to me by our DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy. The congratulatory messages that came flooding in from different corners of the country the day my appointment was announced were just so encouraging, so overwhelming.

I guess the appointment of a digital advocate who has lived all her life in the countryside came as an inspiration to many like myself. We trailblaze and carve paths where there aren’t any.

One such trailblazer is Judilyn Cañete, founder of MedStar Philippines Healthcare Information Management (MedStar PHIM), an offshore lead provider of healthcare information management services and human resource development. MedStar PHIM is the local arm of MedStar Billing Technology and Resources, a medical billing company and an innovator in providing training to knowledge process outsourcing companies, healthcare facilities, schools, training centers, and other organizations dealing with healthcare.

I met her several years back when we were trying to scale Bacolod for the healthcare information management (HIM) industry. Today, through the dedication of Judilyn, MedStar is breaking new ground.

As part of the strategies for advancing digital skills in global and local certification, the University of Saint La Salle (USLS) Bacolod has partnered with MedStar Philippine Healthcare Information and Management, based in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, to roll out the online certified professional coder course. USLS is among the first universities in the country that answered the call to train Filipinos in the HIM sector to compete locally and globally.

MedStar is an American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)-approved and Tesda-accredited training provider in the roll-out of the AAPC Certified Professional Coder (CPC) in the USA and Philippines. CPC certification is internationally recognized as the gold standard and the most respected medical coding certification in the healthcare industry.

In March 2022, 80 percent of the Tesda-supported graduates passed the online Certified Professional Coder, a US licensure examination. Based on examinee surveys, only about 40 to 50 percent pass the exam on their first attempt.

Catherine Izzabelle De Capia, a registered nurse and a graduate of Colegio San Agustin Bacolod, garnered 94 percent in the CPC examination. She was one of the trainees of MedStar PHIM on the "Tulong Trabaho Project of Tesda. She brought pride and honor to Bacolod City by topping the first rank in their batch who took the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam in April 2022.

Louise Ortaliz is a registered Medical Technologist and a Colegio San Agustin Bacolod graduate. She is a product of the "Train for Work Scholarship" project of the Negros Occidental government through the Negros Occidental Language and Information Technology Center (Nolitc). She was the second rank in the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) AAPC in their batch slated for the February 2020 exam. After taking the CPC exam, she was promoted to a medical coder in a US-based company's Outcome and Assessment Information Set (Oasis) department working from home.

Napoleon Cortez, RN, CPC-I, is a product of MedStar PHIM under the "Train for Work Scholarship" project of the Negros Occidental government through the NOLITC. After topping the CPC exam, he was hired by MedStar PHIM to be one of the instructors at the training center. Given the title of CPC-I means he is a master and expert in US coding guidelines. Cortez is a US-certified AAPC instructor to teach medical coding and is considered the first in Western Visayas.

This partnership between USLS and MedStar was borne out of my dream to see skills being mainstreamed in universities. I am humbled by how Judilyn considers my efforts as having paved the way for the healthcare information industry to thrive in the province. She considers this partnership with USLS as a boost for more collaboration to work together toward making the HIM industry soar to even greater heights. These efforts promote the countryside as the choice location for digital jobs to provide opportunities to Negrenses and promote the province and Bacolod City as a top HIM industry destinations in the Philippines. Thanks to all our trailblazers!