AHIMA Member to Become IFHRO President

Data integrity and coding consistency are not just US challenges. Health information management professionals around the world share these and other issues.

The International Federation of Health Records Organizations offers the HIM community a global forum to exchange information relating to health records and information technology.

AHIMA has played an active role in IFHRO since the federation’s formation in 1968. This month AHIMA’s representative Margaret Skurka becomes the new IFHRO president at IFHRO’s 16th Congress meeting, November 15 to 19.

Skurka, MS, RHIA, CCS, FAHIMA, was voted president-elect of IFHRO at the organization’s last congress in Korea in 2007. She assumes the presidency at this year’s meeting, taking place in Milan, Italy. The director of HIM programs at Indiana University Northwest, in Gary, IN, Skurka has served as AHIMA’s representative on the IFHRO executive committee since 2004.

With nearly 20 national HIM organizations participating in IFHRO, Skurka says she looks forward to working with HIM professionals from around the world in her new role. Working with IFHRO has forced Skurka to think of HIM beyond the US borders.

“We are more similar than different, and can all learn from each other,” she says. “All countries have contributions to make, whether they are small or large. I very much want contributions from all over the world on our Web site, with positive interaction, and I truly hope I can facilitate that happening.”

On the Agenda

An organization of organizations, IFHRO has no official bricks and mortar headquarters—its Web site serves as the focal point of most its initiatives. Congresses, like this month’s meeting in Milan, are held every three years and provide the chance for members to meet and work on initiatives face to face.

Several important IFHRO initiatives will launch or continue while Skurka serves her three-year term as organization president.

Helping developing countries achieve HIM quality is a major focus of IFHRO, which is affiliated with the World Health Organization.

Work is currently under way to develop an education module that developing countries can use as a guide for EHRs. The module will discuss the benefits and challenges that come with EHRs, list EHR do’s and don’ts, provide a timeline for proper implementation, and detail the best way to effectively use the technology for improved healthcare. The module is intended for any professional working in an area of the world where EHRs are not widely implemented.

Skurka describes the module as a “first step—what the EHR is, what it is useful for, and why you should implement it.”

The “EHR Development and Implementation: The Key Issues” module is expected to be posted to the IFHRO Web site in spring 2011.

Continuing through Skurka’s presidency is the WHO-FIC-IFHRO Joint Collaboration’s ICD-10 training and certificate program. The initiative offers free, online ICD-10 training and certificate testing to coding professionals—a program especially helpful in areas of the world lacking developed coding programs and credentialing systems.

“Why is this so important? Very simple—to improve the quality of coding internationally,” says Skurka, who has been active in the initiative for several years. “Quality coding leads to quality data, and that is the important bottom line.”

The project has pilot-tested mortality coding training and certification in select parts of the world with much success, but a recent lack of funding has slowed the international rollout, Skurka says.

IFHRO hopes to secure funding and widely offer the program soon, eventually launching an accompanying program for morbidity coding.

“The hope is for individuals to take part in the education and sit for the test,” Skurka says. “They can come out with a certificate and skills that better support the coding of their data.”

Not all countries have an organized health information management association. IFHRO strives to serve as the association for HIM professionals in those areas, providing educational and professional resources and connecting individuals to other professional peers.

“IFHRO is the best mechanism that we have in place today to allow for the open exchange of HIM ideas between countries,” Skurka says. “It allows us to look at our commonalities and our differences and cooperate through the sharing of information with the goal of improving health information management.”

More information on IFHRO is available on the organization’s Web site.

1 Comment

  1. AHIMA member becoming the IFHRO president again is no doubt good thing that any regular visitors to AHIMA web site will receive with a very high hope and expectations. I also beleive in the person of Skurka, to be a visionary leader that meets the current challenges in this noble profession of ours. I wish her the best and progresive tenure. The developing countries are looking forward for better days of HIM.

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