Delegates Learn How to Advocate, Shape Message for HIM Future

Identifying trends, advocating for the HIM view, and mobilizing local voices are among the future directions explored by AHIMA’s House of Delegates during its 66th meeting Sunday in Chicago, IL. Delegates from across the country met to validate and prioritize trends to help guide AHIMA’s strategy, share ideas on effectively advocating for the HIM profession, and understand how state leaders and delegates can support national initiatives at the state level.

In a break with the past, the group did not vote on bylaw changes or resolutions. The change in the meeting’s format is part of the new configuration and operation of the House, which has focused its effort this year on how it can better govern the HIM profession.  The House also meets virtually via AHIMA’s Communities of Practice.

Disruptive in a Good Way

A new feature of the House is the Envisioning Collaborative, consisting of delegates, subject matter experts, and industry leaders bringing forward emerging issues. The group is charged with looking at the environment and gathering data on trends and changes that could affect HIM to guide AHIMA and state association strategy.

To set the stage, David Westfall, MBA, AHIMA vice president of business innovation, and Susan Parker, MEd, RHIA, speaker of the House, introduced the audience to environmental scanning. Westfall drew attention to the concept of “disruptive innovation,” which fundamentally shifts the environment it is in—often quickly. He also described the “inflection point” where an event significantly changes the progress of a company or industry, often overnight.  Inflection points can be spotted via environmental scans, Westfall said, especially if we are not too busy to see around our own selective attention spans.

Parker then led the delegates in an environmental scanning exercise. “What’s disruptive—in a good way?” she asked. “Think beyond next year; what do we need to prepare for on down the road?” Important trends identified by delegates included Apple’s Siri technology, increased consumer participation in healthcare, healthcare reform, and a future role for HIM as advocates for patients.

Build and Engage

Once issues that affect HIM have been addressed via environmental scanning, the next step is often advocacy, said Don Asmonga, AHIMA’s director of government relations. Asmonga discussed the need for AHIMA and HIM professionals to lead through advocacy to advance the profession and the association. “When we talk about advocacy, we’re advocating for the profession,” Asmonga said. “It’s a matter of understanding the issue and what you want the outcome to be.” For instance, AHIMA is preparing a new state-level project that will provide tools to state associations to help them reach out effectively to the physician community on ICD-10 implementation.

Asmonga identified the support and coordination that is needed at the state level. “We need you to build—appoint a state advocacy coordinator in your state,” he said, adding that a draft description of such a role is available. “We need you to engage—with policy makers, other organizations, and consumers.”

House members brainstormed possible advocacy plans on privacy and security, health information exchange, and ICD-10.

Loud and Long

Moving the profession forward also means getting the word out, according to Dorothy Pirovano, CEO of Public Communications Inc., the public relations firm representing AHIMA. For Pirovano, “public relations is a simple, cost-effective mode of communications,” even more than advertising. Media campaigns are most effective, she said, when a message defends the interest of the consumer.

Pirovano offered tips for strategies and tactics that can help bring national issue campaigns effectively to a local level. She added that campaigns should be “loud and long” with regular action and communication. “It’s got to be constant that you are hitting your audience regular with the same message,” she said.

Communication can take many forms, including media outreach, social media, video, audio, e-mail, and text. Educational events such as webinars, forums, and speaking engagements can also effectively reach audiences, Pirovano said.

State-level campaigns should build on national messages, but with a local twist. Local campaigns also require consideration of budget, spokespersons, target audiences, and ways to reach the audiences. It’s important for state associations to tailor national campaigns to local realities and sensitivities.


**Follow the news and get insights from AHIMA’s 84th annual Convention and Exhibit being held October 1-3 in Chicago, IL. New articles covering the event will be posted daily. Look for special e-Alert announcements October 1-3 linking you to a full online edition of AHIMA Today, the on-site convention newspaper.

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