From Papyrus to EHR: Change is in the Air, but HIM Endures

As AHIMA kicked off its 87th Annual Convention and Exhibit at Monday’s general session, speakers talked about the inevitability of change and the promise of the future.

‘We Redid the Playbook’

Cassi Birnbaum, MS, RHIA, CPHQ, FAHIMA, recalled her year as AHIMA president. One of the top priorities was the national advocacy campaign calling for no further delay of ICD-10-CM/PCS. “After three delays [of ICD-10] I thought I was living through another Groundhog Day movie,” she said. “We completely redid the playbook on why ICD-10 matters.”

Leadership has also been a prominent theme for Birnbaum. “There has never been a year where I’ve seen such unprecedented movement in our HIM ranks,” she said. Birnbaum urged members to prepare for their continued career journey during convention and to lead and promote initiatives such as information governance and informatics. “We’ve realized our vision, but our work has only begun,” she said.

AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, looked back to the first medical records, written on papyrus. More recently, the founding of what we now know as AHIMA in 1928 paved the way for modern HIM practice. Medical records were then elevated to a place of importance, Gordon said, and no longer relegated to collecting dust.

Today, HIM professionals work to make sense of the current information explosion and take the lead in turning health information into health intelligence. “As HIM professionals, our job is to tell the patient story with integrity, so it can be trusted,” she said.

In fact, the pace of change for the profession has accelerated, and HIM professionals must choose how they react to the change, Gordon said. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? We will face the challenges together, be aware of the past, and look forward to the future,” Gordon said.

HIM in Demand Worldwide

Chandra Brown, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing with the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), described the work of the ITA and its recent collaboration with AHIMA to increase exports of HIM educational, certification, and accreditation materials.

ITA has been working to increase exports in many sectors, but it believes there is particular opportunity in the health IT (HIT) market, Brown said. HIT subsectors such as mobile health and telehealth are expected to grow in the next five years. US exports are in particular demand due to the desire for innovative “disruptive” technologies around the world, and the US wants to continue to be a leader, Brown said.

Similarly, AHIMA has an opportunity to educate students and workers worldwide about best practices in HIM, Brown said. Since 2013, ITA and AHIMA have collaborated on a market development coordination program to increase HIM education-related exports to Brazil, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, with a focus on developing a global HIM curriculum.

The Global HealthWorkforce Council, established by AHIMA and the AHIMA Foundation, released the first curricula for academic programs and workforce development efforts across health information professions worldwide this summer.

Brown said ITA recently published the “2015 Top Markets Report: Health IT,” which ranks health IT export potential in 80 markets. The report provided insights into the opportunities and challenges in various countries. For example, certain countries may not know how to work with the health IT sector due to outdated regulations and lack of coordination among government ministries and agencies. Other potential issues include overly restrictive policies regarding exchange and storage of information, which may discourage effective use of health information. ITA is working with its partners to overcome these limitations, Brown said. “We’re here to advocate on your behalf,” she said.

‘Pride Makes You Strong’

Liz Jazwiec, RN, of the Studer Group, shared her insights on customer service in what she described as her “fatally blunt” manner. At Chicago’s Holy Cross Hospital in the 1990s, she was an emergency room nurse when a new CEO determined that the hospital had to improve its patient satisfaction scores from 14 percent to 70 percent in nine months.

“You know how much we love change in healthcare,” Jazwiec said. She was skeptical initially, she said. “I resisted service for the sport of it. I just didn’t like it.” But over time she found that improving customer service increased the sense of purpose she felt in her work by seeing the impact it made on patients. “You never know how far your reach goes,” she said.

She advised listeners to focus not only on what’s wrong, but on what’s right “and embrace it,” she said. “Because pride makes you strong.”

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