Managing Strategic Healthcare Alliances Takes Creativity, Chocolate

With an unprecedented number of provider mergers and acquisitions taking place in healthcare today, HIM professionals have the daunting task of ensuring the integrity of patient data that gets caught in the middle when organizations collide.

In their Health Information Integrity Summit presentation “Lessons Learned from Strategic Alliances and the Quest for Data Integrity,” panelists Susan Lucci, RHIT, CMT, ADHI-F, with Just Associates, Karen Proffitt, MHIIM, RHIA, CHP, with Just Associates, and Melinda Patten, MHA, RHIA, CHPS, CDIP, with Children’s Hospital Colorado talked Sept. 17 about the information governance considerations when healthcare systems join forces, whether it be between hospitals, physician practices, or healthcare exchanges.

“The prevailing thought is, in the boardroom at the executive level, when decisions are being made, you think it’s simple,” Lucci said. “We all know that’s not how it works. There are some very political issues that are going to arise in how project leadership is managed that will definitely impact the results of your project.”

But when two or more organizations come together, especially if there’s more than one electronic health record or one is being phased out, Lucci said that establishing an information governance framework becomes incredibly important, and it must be done up front.

When merging HIM functions, Proffitt said to take special care with outsourced services such as billing and coding.

“Providers get confused about whose systems they can dictate into,” Proffitt said. Things to consider include a reconciliation of contracted services, labs, dietary notes, therapy records, and how one should navigate systems in a contracted manner.

Patten had firsthand experience with these issues when Children’s Hospital Colorado collaborated with the University of Colorado Health Memorial Hospital. Patten had 30 days to develop a HIM plan for analysis, release of information, chart completion, physician suspension and notification, delinquency rate, and coding and billing for two different EHR systems with no existing interface.

“There were many, many point of failures for merging registration,” Patten said. “What helps us is that all these locations are registering our patients in the same systems…we just go out and train them and say ‘We’re going to help you help us.’”

All three panelists attribute the successful merger to the inherent creativity of HIM professionals.

“Nothing we did was tradition, nor could we pull a book and do what we did,” Patten said.

When asked how she coped over the 30-day transition process, Patten pulled up a slide of a wine glass and added, “Lots of chocolate.”

 

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Follow the Journal‘s coverage for news and insights from AHIMA’s Health Information Integrity Summit taking place September 16-17 in Alexandria, VA. To explore more, click here.

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