General Session: AHIMA Leaders Describe Strategic Goals for Moving HIM Forward

ONC Official Says HIM Processes Key for Privacy, Security

New directions for AHIMA and for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) were front and center during Monday’s general session in a welcome to what AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, FACHE, FAHIMA, promised would be the “biggest and best convention ever.”

Dreaming Big

Thomas Gordon and AHIMA President Patty Thierry Sheridan, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, jointly delivered an update on the actions AHIMA is taking to ensure that HIM professionals have the resources they need to succeed during this time of transformative change. They highlighted members who had met big challenges and positioned themselves as leaders for the future. Pam Lane, Meg McElroy, and Patricia Cunningham, all AHIMA members with prominent professional roles and well-known leaders, were present in the audience and were recognized for their innovation and expertise.

“These four individuals exemplify the power of dreaming big,” Thomas Gordon said. “They remind us that HIM professionals must do more than simply adapt to the present reality. We must anticipate the future needs of our profession, we must arm ourselves with new knowledge and new skills, and we must, must, must commit to lifelong learning.”

Thomas Gordon and Sheridan also described AHIMA’s agenda for the next several years, centered around five strategic goals:

  • Leadership — AHIMA will develop HIM leaders across all healthcare sectors
  • Innovation — AHIMA and its members will be recognized as innovative forces in the healthcare industry
  • Public good — AHIMA and its members will empower consumers to optimize their health through management of their personal health information
  • Data and information governance — AHIMA and its members will be the recognized experts in data and information governance
  • Informatics— AHIMA and its members will contribute to healthcare decision making through analytics, informatics, and decision support
Mission: Change the Culture

Speaker Joy Pritts got right to the point. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you,” she joked. “But really, I’m here to ask you to help us.” Pritts, who is chief privacy officer for ONC, explained that ONC is on a critical mission to create a culture where privacy and security are understood and valued. “This is not a small change,” she said.

Pritts explained that this culture change will involve everyone in the healthcare chain—from the government to vendors, providers, health information exchanges, and patients.

For healthcare organizations, leadership sets the tone in an organization, and providers should have the right attitude—not just about compliance with the law but that “patient privacy and securing health information is good for our patients and good for business.”

Pritts recommended various good strategies for changing a culture, including:

  • Making sure everyone feels comfortable asking questions
  • Using technology that has built in privacy and security features
  • Considering privacy and security part of patient care
  • Having regular privacy and security checkups and communicating the results to all
  • Ensuring that training is regular and updated and part of a strategic plan
  • Using metrics in performance evaluations to ensure everyone is using best practices

“You can do a good job treating patients, but they also want you to do a good job handling patient information,” Pritts said.

Patients Rights and Privacy Expectations Evolving

Patient rights are changing as well. The meaningful use EHR Incentive program requires that patients be able to view, download, and transmit health information and requires providers to provide clinical summaries of each visit.  “Patients have to understand that they are responsible for securing their information” as they gain increased access to it, Pritts said.

She described some forthcoming projects and tools that ONC believes will address some important issues during this time of change. These include:

  • A process by which patients will be able to segment their data to determine which parts of their medical records they want to disclose
  • An e-consent trial to allow people the option to share information in health information exchange
  • An assessment of how consumer attitudes toward security on mobile devices is changing

ONC has already released a guide to privacy and security of health information, developed with assistance from the AHIMA Foundation, that is available on the ONC website,

Pritts said that ONC tries to focus its efforts in areas that are high priority and where the market has failed to provide solutions. “We know we can’t do it alone,” she said. “If we make regulations and rules and nobody follows them, we haven’t succeeded. We are all responsible.”


**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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