AHIMA Members Advocating for HIM Issues on Capitol Hill

This week, a contingent of health information management (HIM) professionals, comprised of AHIMA members and component state association (CSA) representatives, are bringing their years of experience and knowledge to Capitol Hill as part of the 2018 AHIMA Advocacy Summit in Washington DC.

The event, previously known as AHIMA’s “Hill Day,” began Monday morning and will come to a close Tuesday afternoon after attendees have completed their visits to members of Congress. Historically, this event has been an opportunity to advocate for HIM’s professional interests, build name recognition for AHIMA and the profession, and make valuable legislative and executive branch contacts.

This year attendees will hear presentations from AHIMA leadership officials and patient advocates, as well as current and former officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), and the Office for Civil Rights. For example, Iliana Peters, JD, LLM—who recently left her roles as OCR’s acting deputy director and ONC’s acting deputy director for health information privacy (HIP) for a position in the private sector—will give a presentation titled “A Peek Through the Keyhole: An Insider’s View of OCR.”

A keynote speaker for the second day of the Summit is Megan O’Boyle, a patient advocate and mother to a 17-year-old daughter with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. She advocates for data sharing, collaborating with other advocacy groups, sharing resources and streamlining institutional review board (IRB) practices and policies.

Focus on the Issues

Two of the legislative priorities that AHIMA members will be focusing on in their meetings with their Congressional representatives are patient matching and modernizing privacy laws to combat the opioid epidemic.

As anyone who has ever worked with a patient’s health record knows, mismatches between patients and their clinical data can have serious patient safety consequences. AHIMA has long advocated for the creation of a standard for a unique health identifier. However, an appropriations bill passed since FY 1999 has been viewed as a barrier to public-private sector collaboration in accelerating and scaling effective patient identification and matching solutions. And with the implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, HIM professionals will be responsible for managing greater volumes of data and must ensure that each patient is properly identified and matched to their specific health information.

In their meetings, Summit attendees will ask that legislators omit the 1999 language in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations legislation to enable the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with the industry to advance a nationwide patient matching strategy.

As privacy officers and other HIM professionals are aware, the privacy statute known as the 42 CFR Part 2 regulation, which is nearly 40 years old, governs the confidentiality and sharing of substance use disorder treatment records. Under that law, disclosure of information that identifies an individual as having received or receiving substance abuse disorder treatment from a designated Part 2 program is generally prohibited, unless an individual gives his or her written consent. In 1996, HIPAA came along, which permits a covered entity to “use and disclose protected health information, with certain limits and protections, for treatment, payment and healthcare operations activities.”

This creates a number of challenges for the HIM professionals working in this space. Advocacy Summit participants will encourage their lawmakers to support and co-sponsor H.R. 3545, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (OPPS Act)/S. 1850, the Protecting Jessie Grubb’s Legacy Act. H.R. 3545/S. 1850 will align Part 2 with HIPAA for purposes of healthcare treatment, payment, and operations and strengthen protections around the use of substance use disorder records in criminal proceedings.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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