General Session: It’s All About the Patient

Everything in healthcare begins with the patient, according to Tuesday’s general session speakers at the AHIMA Convention and Exhibit.

“If we can innovate new tools, services, applications, and service models, we can contribute to better care for the patient,” said Wil Yu Tuesday morning during his general session presentation. Yu, who is senior advisor of innovation for the city and county of San Francisco, told the audience that this time is a “long summer” of healthcare innovation as a number of forces come together to move the industry forward.

Yu said that healthcare innovation goes back centuries, though it can take a long time to implement. For example, it took 264 years for preventive measures for scurvy, a disease that cost many lives, to be fully implemented. More recently, government reports have been calling for health IT since a presidential panel report in 1963. Yu emphasized that innovation is not the same thing as invention; innovation is measured by the value that we derive from a new tool over time.

Climate Right for Innovation

But today, Yu said, “there’s never been a better time to innovate.” Market demands and government policies are assuming and inviting innovation. There are also enabling technologies, healthcare-specific technologies, and new health data streams.

“The best part is, government is now serving as a catalyst and collaborator for innovation,” said Yu, who is the former special assistant of Innovations and Research at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. “There are programs and policies in place to help organizations to travel along those pathways for innovation.”

Other drivers for innovation include medical home, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and readmission reduction programs. These all need infrastructure to succeed. But, Yu said, the critical thing is to change the way we understand how care should be delivered. “We should be able to identify who is going to be ill, who needs care and provide care before they show up at the ER,” he said.

It’s a tall challenge; there are many stakeholders who need to be equipped to evaluate or take risks with innovation, or “we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Yu said. Organizations like AHIMA can help fill the gaps between those who are developing innovations and those who are adopting innovations. “I don’t know which technology will become the standard for tomorrow, but there will always be a need for better healthcare,” he said.

Innovators Must Ask ‘What’s Possible?’

Speaker John Kenagy, MD, MPA, ScD, FACS, who presented the AHIMA Foundation Thought Leader lecture, concurred with Yu. “It is all about the patient,” he said.

Kenagy, a physician, executive, author, and scholar who has researched adaptive companies who thrive in changing times, offered insights into how healthcare professionals can adapt and innovate by creating new value. It’s important, he said, to set a clear and positive direction with a purpose. “Talking about patients is a powerful purpose,” he said. The goal he recommended was to “adapt to lead the nation in delivering exactly the care needed at continually lower cost.”

Adaptive innovators use current resources and make things continually better, Kenagy said. They also always ask “What’s possible?” And, he said, they move decision making down to the front lines where change can actually be made.

Kenagy also recommended that organizations learn to adapt in real time, rather than always waiting for more data. “Information is like a vegetable; it spoils over time and it gets bruised when handled,” he said. “This is not scurvy; we don’t have to wait.”

‘Believe it Can Be Done’

Incoming AHIMA president and chair Kathleen Frawley, JD, MS, RHIA, FAHIMA, echoed the patient-centric theme. She urged members to believe in the indispensable role they will play in 21st century healthcare. “The only way we as a profession can deliver top-level care and the necessary privacy to patients is if each of you believes it can be done,” she said.

Frawley also called on AHIMA members to continue the effort to educate the public. “Through examples such as AHIMA’s consumer website, myPHR, we will continue to ensure every patient’s information is not only secure on patient portals, but that patients understand how to access and understand their own health information so they can be the most effective advocates for their best possible care,” she said.


**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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