Professional Development Takes Spotlight in House Talks

Leadership at any level; train for the jobs of the future; mentoring can benefit everyone. These were among the recommendations made by the AHIMA House of Delegates on Sunday to answer the question: How do we prepare working professionals for the future of health information management?

California delegate Maria Cabar Alizondo discusses professional development and leadership at the House of Delegates meeting.

The recommendations were part of a discussion designed to surface ideas, spark innovation, and share best practices from delegates on a variety of issues. The objective was to help health information management (HIM) professionals succeed in healthcare by moving into positions with executive authority or establishing greater responsibilities for their role. Delegates were asked to identify environmental trends, recommend strategies for promoting the HIM profession, and identify needed skills.

The discussion was spurred by the work of the North Carolina Health Information Management Association (NCHIMA), which has been asking these questions on a state level for the past two years. “The heart of this strategic objective is training in professional development and leadership to ensure that we, as HIM professionals, have a future in the profession,” NCHIMA leaders wrote in materials prepared for the meeting.

It is also related to one of AHIMA’s strategic objectives to create pathways for health information professionals into emerging roles and to advance education, competency, and skills. “The work that comes out of the House such as environmental scanning is one of the critical documents we, as a Board, leverage when we explore a strategic direction for AHIMA,” said Ann Chenoweth, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, AHIMA Board of Directors president.

“Our top strategic goal next year is preparing members for emerging roles,” Chenoweth said, adding that the roles aren’t just “emerging” any more—they’re here.

The delegates brainstormed questions, including:

  • What leadership skills do you, your staff, or your organization need?
  • What professional or leadership development is available now?
  • What new titles have been developed in your organization that HIM professionals could step into? What education do these new titles need?
  • What education or skills are needed for HIM professionals and what can CSAs and/or AHIMA do to help?

Delegates assessed the current state related to professional development:

  • Need to define the HIM role better and what our credentials can do
  • IG activities happening outside of HIM
  • Needed skills fit into general categories such as communication, strategic thinking and decision making, financial acumen, lifelong learning, and coping with change
  • Wage gap between education and experience
  • Titles: patient experience manager, data analytics or business intelligence specialist, revenue integrity, eHealth manager, patient portal coordinator, HIM ambassador

Florida delegate Perry Ellie facilitates a discussion on business process outsourcing during the House of Delegates.

Recommendations from the discussion included:

  • Address cultural differences in HIM professional approach to practice.
  • Leadership training in organizations should address all employees. Need low-cost training like podcasts to close the technology gap. Train for the future, not just today.
  • Create a leadership assembly like Assembly on Education (AOE) to learn and share best practices.
  • Skills needed: general categories resourcefulness, networking, visionary thinking, ability to showcase skills and promote credentials and expertise; use skills listed in materials prepared by NCHIMA.
  • Opportunities; leadership at any level.
  • More resources for rural states.
  • Build leadership competencies into a program, include executive mentorship, make it available at all levels.
  • Training tools could include an accountability matrix for self-assessment, leadership roundtable at state or national level, state meetings to focus on hot topics in leadership.

Along similar lines, delegates also discussed results of market research related to the AHIMA white paper “HIM Reimagined” (HIMR). The paper, produced by a team of educators and practitioners, envisions a 10-year process with distinct phases to ensure that HIM knowledge, skills, and competencies are updated to prepare the profession for the future. HIMR’s primary goal is advancing the educational level of AHIMA members. AHIMA conducted market research earlier this year to validate the recommendations made in HIMR, and the results will be shared with all members.

The market research supports employer demand for employees with an increasingly higher level of academic preparation, materials prepared for the meeting said. The delegates brainstormed ways AHIMA and its state associations can help educators and current practitioners be better prepared for the future of HIM.

Recommendations included increasing awareness of the profession to HIM students, professionals, and the marketplace; creating pathways and training for advancement; and leveraging internal and external data to demonstrate HIM’s market value and provide tools for professionals to calculate their own value to their employers.

In addition to professional development, topics discussed included consumer engagement, business process outsourcing, and the future of the House of Delegates.

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