Incoming Board President Enthusiastic About IG’s Possibilities

Incoming AHIMA Board President Melissa Martin, RHIA, CCS, CHTS-IM, likes to joke that she doesn’t feel motivated unless she has three or four projects going on at any given time. That’s good news for AHIMA, which is likely to benefit from Martin’s energy when she steps into her new role in January.

Not only will she be the board president, she will also be juggling her day job as the chief privacy officer and director of health information management (HIM) at WVU Medicine in Morgantown, WV, (formerly West Virginia University Hospitals).

At work she currently is spending 50 percent of her time on a special project to oversee the construction of a new outpatient surgery center. And while serving as the AHIMA board president, Martin also will continue working on her master’s degree in legal studies, a program that will wrap up in 2016. But most importantly, she’s the mother of two girls, Miranda, 19, and Abby, 16, and wife to her husband of 25 years, James.

Martin doesn’t seem too worried about balancing all these projects, since she’s had multiple projects going on at one time since she started her HIM career over 20 years ago. And, she said, she has plenty of support from those around her.

“I’ve always had tremendous support at WVU,” Martin said. “WVU is very proactive, again, as I said, we’re encouraged to think outside of the box, and leadership recognizes that part of that is interacting at a state and national level. They’re always very supportive of any organization that has a strong advocacy arm, because that’s important to us… I have a lot of support through executive leadership as well as my management staff.”

Invested in HIM

Like many HIM leaders, Martin said she fell into the profession almost by accident. Growing up, she was interested in law and business but wasn’t sure what she wanted to study at a local state college until she found an HIM program in her class catalog and decided to try her hand at it. She completed an associate’s degree and worked in a couple healthcare facilities in Columbus, OH, before moving back home to her native West Virginia to finish her bachelor’s degree at WVU, where she also got her healthcare administrator certificate.

Martin has been involved with HIM volunteer work from the very beginning of her career, starting with working at West Virginia’s HIM component state association in a variety of roles for several years. She eventually moved on to volunteering roles at the national AHIMA level, including a stint with AHIMA’s Society for Clinical Coding and then with the AHIMA House of Delegates. Finally, about three and a half years ago, the nominating committee selected Martin to run for a position on the board of directors.

One of the highlights during her tenure on the board has been Martin’s participation in the Mentor Match program, which pairs HIM veterans with HIM students. It’s logical to assume that the mentees are set to gain the most from their more experienced matches, but Martin said she’s also gained valuable insights from being a mentor.

She added that young people these days often get cast in a negative light for being social media obsessed, which Martin thinks is unfair.

“To be honest, when all those things are used well within our association, it makes a huge difference for us. Our social media campaign for ICD-10 advocacy was key to getting the word out… When I work with a student, I feel like I’m getting something different from them,” she said. “The other thing I try to remember is the student or that mentee might be my next employee and I have to know how to relate to them.”

Focus on Information Governance Vital

One of the most exciting aspects of her time as a board member has been Martin’s involvement in AHIMA’s Information Governance (IG) Task Force, where she helped develop AHIMA’s Information Governance Principles for HealthcareTM and the AHIMA IG Maturity Model, and enjoyed the experience of working on something from the ground up. Even though some of the IG work is in uncharted territory for healthcare, Martin said she’s come away knowing that it’s a risk worth taking to be on the cutting edge.

In the time that Martin has been working on IG at AHIMA, her own facility was able to apply some governance strategies to their records warehousing. WVU Medicine was able to consolidate three warehouse’s worth of records down to two.

“I frequently say to folks that I work with that it’s OK for us to be on the cutting edge and it’s OK to not have all the answers,” Martin said. “We have the support in our organization to work strategically, so why not do that?”

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