Slideshow: Tracking the Changing Face of the Journal

In honor of AHIMA’s 90th anniversary, this slideshow features historic Journal of AHIMA covers from the 1930s to today, as well as a summary of the major HIM topics from each time period.

The first ever association magazine started off with a letter from the editor, Dr. T.R. Ponton, MD, BA, from the Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago, IL, who wrote that creating an “official organ for the association” was one of the first priorities of the new Association of Record Librarians of North America management team. “Many difficulties arose, to overcome which took time, hence the publication of the first number has been greatly delayed. But at last all obstacles have been overcome and the Record Librarians of North America now have an official organ in which they will be able to propound their difficulties and express their thoughts and whose future is entirely in their hands,” Ponton wrote. The first article was a reprinting of Grace Whiting Myers first presidential address at the first annual association convention held a few months earlier in October 1929.

HIM was clearly in its infancy in December 1937, illustrated through that month’s Bulletin of the Association of Record Librarians of North America which featured an article titled “What Constitutes a Proper Appraisal of the Medical Record?” by Dr. Charles B. Puestow. The article discussed the value specific medical records hold for physicians during treatment, how this information needs to be readily accessible to physicians, and how an active “Committee on Records” should be established in hospitals to “establish and maintain a proper record library.” “Too often this committee exists in name only. It should meet regularly, appraise records fearlessly, both as to quality and completeness, and should report its findings regularly at staff meetings,” Puestow wrote.
The April 1949 issue of the Journal of the American Association of Medical Record Librarians discusses early data analytics efforts by HIM professionals. “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today” warns the article “Medical Statistics in Hospitals,” which states this temptation is the “arch enemy [medical record librarians] must help doctors to overcome so that medical records may be completed promptly.” Recording essential data daily allows the creation of monthly and yearly statistics that can be used to track care, the article states.
The imminent threat of a nuclear holocaust looms large in the February 1958 issue of the Journal. An article by Brig. Gen. Don Carleton, director of civil defense for the city of Milwaukee, opens by stating “two hundred cities will be attacked with nuclear weapons, the yield of these weapons will vary from three to five megatons each. In other words, the nation will be hit by something greater than eight hundred million tons of TNT in a few hours” and that “over half the people of the United States will be killed in the initial attack or will die in a few weeks from radiation poison” if the Soviet Union were to decide to launch an attack. The article discusses the role hospitals and medical records will play following a nuclear attack, with the following article “Medical Records in Disaster” providing best practices for HIM specifically during a large-scale natural or man-made emergency.
The cover story of the January 1968 issue discusses best practices for medical record documentation and exchange when a patient moves from an acute care to an extended care (long-term care) facility—a new trend in treatment. Medicare had recently been signed into law in 1965, greatly expanding the affordability and access to “extended-care facilities.” HIM professionals were increasingly transferring acute patient records to long-term care facilities, and sought guidance on just what to send and how to send it.
Computerization was just starting to shake up the HIM industry in 1978, evident by the lead story “New Equipment Elicits New Paperwork System at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.” The piece discusses how the medical center’s “new, on-line data communications and processing equipment and programs” made it necessary to completely revamp their health information paperwork systems.
Technology’s impact on HIM dominates the February 1988 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Record Association, describing how new voice recognition dictation technology had greatly changed transcription duties at one early-adopter healthcare facility. The technology was needed due to a new emphasis in healthcare on “the availability of medical information to be disseminated to a large audience of users in a short period of time, or, in some cases, at the same time.”
As mergers and consolidations of healthcare organizations ramped up in the 1990s, the February 1998 Journal of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offered advice on how employees of different work cultures can integrate following a merger, as well as how HIM can best handle an organizational restructuring project. The issue also looked at what HIM would be like 10 years in the future in 2008. The piece predicted more health system consolidation and presented an optimistic view of a coming revolution in HIM due to mass use of internet-enabled electronic medical record systems. “The front end of the EMR will seamlessly present the data across the continuum of care and throughout the enterprise in a format preferred by the user,” the article stated of a hypothetical 2008 EMR. “The vast majority of the data in the medical record will be captured electronically by the provider at the point of care. Each word entered into the EMR, along with its context, will be codified, enabling it instantly for use in discreet analysis, patient care, or decision support.”

The looming switch to the ICD-10-CM/PCS code set was the topic of a special section in the March 2008 Journal of AHIMA. “It has been nearly five years since the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics recommended to the secretary of Health and Human Services that the regulatory process for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS adoption be initiated. The healthcare industry continues to wait for definitive action,” read the cover story “Why ICD-10 is Worth the Trouble.” “And it waits anxiously, because the change represents a looming disruption.” That wait would continue through two implementation delays and seven more years before the code set was officially put in place on October 1, 2015.

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