AHIMA’s VLab is the platform of choice by HIM educators for value-added HIM experiential education.
In order to help bring experiential learning to the HIM academic experience, AHIMA developed the VLab, an Internet-based, practical, participative, HIM and health information technology (HIT) work environment. Featuring multiple software applications and corresponding lab lessons, the VLab is an affordable solution for bringing health information technology software to the classroom. Launched in 2006, the VLab, has more than 400 subscribing colleges and universities and has been used by more than 10,000 students annually.
Students can access and experience state-of-the-art software like the master patient index (MPI), Electronic Health Record (EHR), encoders, electronic document management systems (EDMS), Release of Information Software (ROI) 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’s VLab is the platform of choice by health educators around the globe and across all clinical disciplines for interprofessional and experiential health intelligence education.
AHIMA launched its VLab, 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 VLab 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 VLab now has more than 400 subscribing schools, and has been used by more than 10,000 students annually. 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 VLab, 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 VLab is a great, real-world supplement to HIM education.
Lab applications are available via the internet, 24x7.
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Varies by vendor application and nature of problem. Most downtime occurs during scheduled maintenance windows that users and admins are notified of in advance, usually lasting only a few minutes but can last up to a few hours. Emergency maintenance issues occur very rarely, and in extreme cases but may require one or more business days to restore service.
The purpose of AHIMA’s Virtual Lab (VLab) platform 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 curricula. The VLab enables students to actually work with the HIM technologies they will encounter in the real-world healthcare workplace.
Step 1: A VLab Subscription form should be completed and forwarded to AHIMA. Shortly thereafter, the school will receive a Welcome email, containing VLab orientation materials and any enrollment codes they’ve ordered, which will be ready to use immediately. They will also receive free enrollment codes for their instructors.
Step 2: Instructors requesting Admin Dashboard access (where you can see your VLab student roster and run grade reports) will also be provided with membership to the VLab Instructors’ Engage Community, an online repository containing a library of guides and resources, answer keys to all VLab activities, and a discussion forum where they will see notices from AHIMA as well as questions and comments posted by other current VLab instructors.
Step 3: There are several training options available to educators. Complimentary, online basic training sessions are available via WebEx. In-person, advanced training sessions are offered at the annual Assembly on Education Symposium/Faculty Development Institute (registration and fee required). In-person, advanced training sessions are also available by request (advance scheduling and fee required).
Step 4: The real value of AHIMA’s VLab is that it offers a blank slate for instructors and students to apply critical thinking skills to solve health data problems as they are taught throughout the curriculum. Instructors select the specific VLab applications and activities that their students should access and complete, based on curriculum needs. All users will have access to everything VLab has to offer, so instructors should guide their students to let them know what is relevant to them at that time.
Each VLab enrollment code provides 365 days of continuous access to VLab applications, resources and activities. There are two subscription choices available to choose from that will determine which applications and resources you have access to. They are:
VLab All-Access: All-inclusive access to the full suite of VLab applications, resources and activities.
VLab Encoder Only: You asked for it, you got it! You and your students now have the option of an Encoder Only VLab subscription that give access ONLY to the encoder applications and resources within VLab. This package includes the 3M Encoder, Nuance Clintegrity Encoder and Find-A-Code applications and related activities, as well as the Patient Cases and answer keys.
There are three enrollment code purchase options:
Click on the links below for the Subscription Form, Enrollment Code Order Forms and pricing information:
VLab Subscription Form (Use to begin/renew organization’s VLab subscription)
VLab Enrollment Code Order Form (Use to order more enrollment codes during active subscription)
Bookstore Order Form (Use to order codes in bulk for bookstores)
Online Redemption Center (Use for students to purchase directly from AHIMA)
Please submit a Customer Support Request Form for more information.
The VLab 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 VLab applications are included and available with a VLab subscription. For a full list of VLab applications, click here.
VLab staff provides system maintenance for the applications and is available for assistance with VLab setup, review of user materials (especially helpful for online programs) and general user support. The VLab is completely internet-based, requiring minimal set-up on the user’s PC, or in your school PC lab. System Requirements
AHIMA’s Virtual Lab (VLab) can be used in a classroom lab setting or virtually from anywhere there is internet access, and the applications are available 24 x 7 for access on your own schedule. The VLab 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. It brings everything they have read about to life!
Instructors will advise students on: a) which VLab enrollment option they want students to use (see below), and b) the specific timing for enrolling into the VLab. Students should coordinate with their instructors accordingly.
Students enroll into VLab using one of three options:
Step 1: Log into the Learning Management System at academy.ahima.org, then click the My Learning tab to go to the My Learning page.
Step 2: Scroll down and input the enrollment code into the text box at the bottom of the page. Single left-click the Redeem button (do not click the button more than once). The VLab Academy link should now display as an active link under the Enrollments section of your My Learning page.
Step 3: All VLab applications are accessible immediately upon completion of the individual user enrollment. However, students should wait for further directions from their instructors before proceeding (instructors will assign the VLab activities according to their specific course syllabus).
Step 4: Some VLab applications require an additional self-registration step by the user before the application can be used. In such cases, step-by-step instructions are available within specific activities located under the application sections of VLab Academy.
The third VLab enrollment option available is for students to purchase VLab access directly from AHIMA via the Online Redemption Center. Students are reminded to coordinate with their instructor before making their purchase using this option. General instructions for this purchase option are provided below. Your instructor will provide more-specific instructions. Also note that for this enrollment option, no separate VLab enrollment code is provided to the student; VLab Academy will automatically be added to the student’s My Learning page at the time of purchase.
Step 1: The instructor must first provide students with the school’s specific VLab Promotional Code. The code will look something like this: “VLRandomCommColl”.
Step 2: Student will go to the AHIMA Web Store and log in. Hover over the Product Category tab with your mouse, then click the VLAB link. This will take you to the store login screen.
Step 3: You must login with your AHIMA credentials on the left side of the page in order to purchase. If you do not have an AHIMA account, you must create a FREE account on the right side of the page (this is not an AHIMA membership, just a free account so you can log into ahima.org websites). This will take you to the Redemption Center page.
Step 4: Input the VLab Promotional Code your instructor provided, then click Apply. Select the product “VLAB Enrollment Codes”, click Full Details, then click Add To Cart. After the product is added to your cart, click on your cart in the upper-right corner of the page, then click Checkout. Make sure the quantity next to the VLab enrollment codes product says “1” in the cart.
Step 5:Complete all the information on the check out screen then click Place Order. Once the purchase goes through, you will receive a confirmation email, which means your VLab Academy enrollment has been successfully set up for you!
AHIMA’s Virtual Lab (VLab) platform 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.
The HIM professional practice workspace is continually evolving, with new software applications emerging on a nearly-daily basis. Similarly, AHIMA’s VLab strives to maintain a robust suite of software applications which are relevant in the marketplace, actually used in the HIM professional practice workspace, and ultimately equips students with the skills and competencies necessary to succeed in the healthcare industry and to compete in the global economy.
(NOTE: Applications below designated with an asterisk (*) next to the name are included in the VLab Encoder Only subscription package.)
AHIMA’s VLab features hundreds of redacted patient records which students can use for a variety of assignments. There are 99 patient records housed under the Patient Cases section of VLab. These records have all been coded using ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS and the coding answer keys are all available to coding instructors! These patient records are also useful for assignments in abstracting, clinical documentation improvement, auditing and many other functions.
The MEDITECH electronic health record (EHR) is used in over 2,300 hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide. In the U.S., there are many different healthcare professional roles, and in each one, there are many different functions. No matter which role is yours, the MEDITECH EHR will make it easier to perform your functions and be more productive. For HIM staff, it helps you to be more efficient, and capture more information up front. MEDITECH learning activities featured on VLab include Account Access and Login, Patient Care Services, Physician Care Manager, Release of Information, Deficiency Analysis, Delinquency Reporting and Revenue Cycle Management.
An award-winning, cloud-based physician practice management system, giving students experience in many different HIM activities, including building clinical document templates, registering new patients, editing patient data, scheduling patient appointments, and generating bills, among others.
This EHR system includes pre-built patient cases and allows students to register and build their own cases too. This system also explores:
Fourteen interactive, guided simulations allow students to build skills and competencies using the VistA EHR, formerly used in Veteran’s Administration (VA) facilities across the U.S. Traditional HIM areas covered include data retrieval, coding an office visit and health reporting. Non-traditional topics are covered as well, including scheduling an appointment, checking in a patient, creating an office note, problem list, consultation, discharge summary, alerts and triggers, ordering a medication and checking out a patient.
3M’s logic-based encoder software provides students with access to 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:
Find-A-Code is an online database of medical billing codes and information. Going far beyond the free trial version of Find-A-Code, AHIMA’s VLab features several specially-designed learning activities in which students gain hands-on, practical experience assigning diagnosis and procedure codes. By completing the VLab learning activities, students quickly discover that rather than searching through 10 or more books, Find-A-Code has combined the information into one simple search. Find-A-Code has many tools to assist students in their efforts to accurately assign diagnosis and procedure codes. Students particularly enjoy completing the activity in which they use the Code-A-Note computer assisted coding (CAC) tool!
This knowledge-based encoder software suite includes 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:
The core system supporting data integrity within any healthcare organization is their Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI), which is used for patient identity management and duplicate record management. The ARGO EMPI database includes thousands of patient demographic records and more than 75,000 associated tasks. By using ARGO’s patient matching features, students use their critical thinking skills while also building their EMPI database management skills and competencies. VLab learning activities enable students to explore the following topics using the Demo Reg and Entity Match & Resolution modules within the ARGO EMPI software:
This document imaging system provides the VLab’s main chart repository. The system includes over 300 scanned images of patient records 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.
Included with each VLab enrollment is a free trial of Tableau’s data visioning and analysis software, along with access to several hands-on data visioning learning activities, practice data sets and on-demand Tableau training videos.
CIOX Health ROI (eSmartLog and SmartLink)
The CIOX Health suite allows students to log and analyze patient release of information (ROI) requests online. Requests and corresponding charts from the VLab chart repository are reviewed, and students can submit their “assignments” (documents they determine can be released, based on the request) electronically to their instructors via SmartLink. Specially configured for academic use, the system and corresponding lessons provide students with exposure to key concepts in ROI.
For more information about subscribing to AHIMA’s VLab please submit a Customer Support Request Form.
Below are the VLab system requirements for individual user PCs (subject to change). All of the VLab Applications are hosted and maintained by the VLab and/or its vendors.
AHIMA VLab Instructor Case Studies
AHIMA’s VLab solution supports educators with valuable curriculum resources. In 2017, health information educators came together at the Assembly on Education to share ideas and plan for the next academic year. Several educators presented how they use AHIMA’s VLab in their academic program. These brief, case study presentations facilitated engaging dialogues about how experiential learning can help to achieve student learning outcomes.
Watch the following presentations to get inspired to implement new techniques for your academic program using AHIMA’s VLab.
VLab Case Study 1: “Patient Cases”
Presented by: Lisa L. Campbell, PhD, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, CCS-P
VLab Case Study 2: “Using 3M Cases Demo”
Presented by: Jennifer Talbot, MS.Ed., RHIA, CCS-P
VLab Case Study 3: “Using Dr. Chrono Cases Demo” 00:-
Presented by: Jennifer Talbot, MS.Ed., RHIA, CCS-P
VLab Case Study 4: “Using Find-A-Code Case Demo”
Presented by: Deb Bebow, BSBA, CPC & Jennifer Talbot, MS.Ed., RHIA, CCS-P