In order to help bring experiential learning to the HIM academic experience, AHIMA developed the Virtual Laboratory, an Internet-based, practical, participative, HIM and health information technology (HIT) work environment. Featuring multiple software applications and corresponding lab lessons, the Virtual Lab is an affordable solution for bringing health information technology software to the classroom. Launched in 2006, the Virtual Lab, has more than 200 subscribing colleges and universities and has been used by more than 10,000 students.
Students can access and experience state-of-the-art software like the master patient index (MPI), EHR (Cerner/Athens), encoders, electronic document management systems (EDMS),, and other applications they'll regularly use in the working world. Lessons and activities designed specifically for the lab applications allow students to test their skills and decision-making ability without jeopardizing the privacy, security, or integrity of real medical records.
Useful in the traditional classroom or through distance-learning, students will have their first encounter with, or will brush up on, standard processes, identity management, identification and correction of medical records, prevention of duplicate records, and more. The Lab is essential in preparing students for their on-site experiences.
AHIMA launched its Virtual Lab, an internet-based software lab and lesson repository, in March 2006. Developed with input and contributions from software partners, educators, and HIM professionals, the lab was created to provide an affordable learning laboratory for use in colleges and universities offering degree programs in health information management. Available as a subscription service to academic institutions, the Virtual Lab provides experiential learning through simulations in health information management. Students get hands-on practice in healthcare information technologies.
Initially established with 30 pilot programs, the Virtual Lab now has more than 200 subscribing schools, and has been used by more than 10,000 students. Its design is usable for both distance learning and on-campus programs. System maintenance of the lab applications and user support is provided centrally by the Virtual Lab, minimizing IT resources required at the local school.
Lab lessons and instructional material are designed to illustrate fundamental concepts and principles of electronic health information management. HIM educators and practitioners contribute to the development and review of instructional materials.
As the healthcare industry continues to expand its reliance on information and communication technologies, competencies in managing electronic information resources will only become more critical for all types of healthcare professionals, and vital components for HIM education. AHIMA’s Virtual Lab is a great, real-world supplement to HIM education.
Lab applications are available via the internet, 24x7.
Concurrent User Limits: Access to Virtual Lab applications is subject to concurrent user license restrictions for specific lab applications.
Some lab applications may be scheduled or reserved for specific student use; others are on a first-come, first-served basis, until concurrent user capacity is reached.
VLab Technical Support: 312-233-1523
Direct Support Hours (Immediate answer or response within 30 minutes)
8:00 AM to 9:00 PM CST Monday – Sunday
Indirect Support Hours (Response by 9:00 CST the next morning)
9:00 PM to 8:00 AM CST Monday – Sunday
Submit a customer support request here.
Please make sure to include the following details in your request:
AHIMA staff members are available to provide limited application or user support (password reset, login assistance, etc.) via email.
Depending on the nature of the problem, AHIMA staff may need to contact vendor support for assistance. In those cases, AHIMA staff will provide updates to the user regarding the status of the problem until the problem has been resolved.
varies by vendor application and nature of problem, and may require one (1) business day to restore service.
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The concept of AHIMA’s Virtual Lab is to provide colleges and universities with a single source for virtual access to a full array of core HIM technologies, along with the supporting tools and resources to allow successful and effective integration of these technologies into individual courses and lessons. The Virtual Lab will allow students to actually work with the technology they will encounter in the workplace, in an environment that closely simulates real world application.
Step 1: The school will receive orientation materials to begin registering individual users.
Step 2: Instructors will be given access to the Virtual Lab Instructors’ Engage Community, an online repository for the lab guides, lessons and activities.
Step 3: Instructors can access the Virtual Lab materials on-demand, or learn more about the lab through recorded webcasts.
Step 4: Instructors select specific activities for their students, based on curriculum needs.
Enrollment in the Virtual Lab for the 2012-13 school year is open to CAHIIM-accredited HIM programs and candidates and approved coding programs. Other program types will be considered; on a case-by-case basis. Please submit a Customer Support Request Form for more information.
Two pricing options are available for Virtual Lab subscriptions and all prices are tiered according to school size. Tiered pricing applies to schools with up to 120 students per year. Larger programs should obtain a price quote before submitting the enrollment application (contact AHIMA Customer Support [Link to Contact Us side bar] for assistance).
Click on the links below for enrollment forms and pricing information.
Current Virtual Lab Enrollment Form
Virtual Lab Encoder Only Enrollment Form
Bookstore Order Form
Online Shopping Cart for Students
Schools utilizing the school/student package type may use the bookstore order form to submit orders for student access codes (access codes may also be purchased individually by students, through our online shopping cart).
The Virtual Lab includes a variety of critical HIM software applications. Each application is based on a commercially available product and has been customized or configured to optimize its usability for experiential learning. Instructors are provided with access to all applications and instructional materials, and can select the specific applications and activities their students will use based on their curriculum requirements. All of the lab applications are included and available with a Virtual Lab subscription. For a full list of lab applications, click here
Lab staff provides system maintenance for the applications and is available for assistance with lab setup, review of user materials (especially helpful for online programs) and general user support. The Virtual Lab is completely internet-based, requiring minimal set-up on the user’s PC, or in your school PC lab. System Requirements
The Virtual Lab can be used in the classroom or from home, and the applications are available 24 x 7 for access on your own schedule. The lab applications may provide students with their first exposure to health information software, give them the opportunity to try out new software functions they haven’t used before, or brush up on standard processes and tools for coding, identity management, deficiency management, chart analysis, and more.
Step 1: The school’s registrar or instructor begins the VLab registration process by adding student’s names to a web registration page, which generates a registration e-mail for the student (the sender is firstname.lastname@example.org).
Step 2: The registration email will include a unique link which must be clicked to continue the individual user registration. If the student’s AHIMA ID and Password is lost or has not been obtained, the “click here to skip this step” link will assist with the next steps. Some registrations require entry of an access code – this is determined by the school. If prompted to enter an “access code”, a student access code must be purchased.
Step 3: Once through the first email link, students will receive a second email confirming their registration has been completed. .
Step 4: User accounts are automatically established in each of the lab applications upon completion of the individual user registration. However, the Athens/Cerner accounts takes 1-2 business days after registration is completed.
Step 5: Students should wait for further directions from the instructor (he/she will provide an assignment or other materials with login instructions) before using the Virtual Lab.
Students who need to purchase an access code for registration may use the Virtual Shopping Cart to purchase the access code online, or their school may make them available for purchase through the school bookstore. The instructor will provide information on this if your school requires purchase of the student packets.
Once purchased, it can take up to 48 business hours to fulfill the access code order via email.
To retrieve a My AHIMA ID and Password, please go to Email My Password and an ID and password will be sent to the email address on file.
The Virtual Lab includes a variety of critical HIM software applications. Each application is based on a commercially available product and has been customized or configured for optimal experiential learning.
This electronic health record (EHR) system, designed specifically for academic use, includes more than 20 simulated hospital cases or charts. Lessons direct students in basic navigation of the electronic chart. Users can build their own “play patients”, allowing them to explore clinical and management tools and functions in the EHR, and build knowledge and skills in clinical information systems. This system also explores:
The MPI software suite is used in patient identity management, duplicate record management and in maintaining database integrity. The database includes more than 50,000 patient demographic records, with approximately 5,000 potential duplicate sets. QuadraMed Smart ID is used for patient registration and prevention of duplicate records, while SmartMerge provides tools for duplicate management, including analysis and duplicate cleanup. Lessons explore the following topics and tools in the software:
This knowledge-based encoder software includes ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnostic and procedure codebooks, CPT and HCPCS codebooks, and reimbursement groupers. Students can access extensive coding and general references, such as a medical dictionary, a drug reference guide, and anatomy illustrations, and can gain familiarity with encoder software tools and the resources they provide. The package includes:
3M’s decision-based encoder software provides students with access to ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnostic and procedure codebooks, CPT and HCPCS codebooks, reimbursement groupers, and extensive coding and general references (a medical dictionary, a drug reference guide, and anatomy illustrations). Students gain familiarity with encoder software tools and the resources they provide. The 3M package includes:
This document imaging system provides the main chart repository for the Virtual Lab. The system includes over 300 patient encounters and provides a flexible resource available for use in coding exercises, chart analysis, general orientation to the forms and indexing in the medical record. Chart indexing makes it easy for instructors to select charts by patient type or coding category.
This HealthPort suite allows students to log and analyze release of patient information requests online. Requests and corresponding charts from the Virtual Lab chart repository are reviewed, and the student can submit their “assignments” (documents they determine can be released, based on the request) electronically to their instructor via SmartLink. Specially configured for academic use, the system and corresponding lessons provide students with exposure to key concepts in ROI.
Included is a trial copy of Tableau’s data visioning and analysis software, along with practice data sets and a training webcast developed for HIM students.
The Virtual Lab’s applications and exercises will continue to be developed as new software becomes available, and/or as changes in the external environment result in changes in HIM practice.
For more information about subscribing to AHIMA’s Virtual Lab please submit a Customer Support Request Form.
Below are the Virtual Lab system requirements for individual user PCs (subject to change). All of the Virtual Lap Applications are hosted and maintained by the Virtual Lab and/or its vendors.