Convention Q & A: Involving HIM in Patient Engagement

Cassi Birnbaum, MS, RHIA, FAHIMA, CPHQ, vice president of HIM for Peak Health Solutions in San Diego, CA, and incoming AHIMA president/chair-elect, has worked extensively on issues related to health IT as a tool for helping consumers to be active participants in their own healthcare, including encouraging several California healthcare organizations to sign the government’s Blue Button pledge to empower individuals to be partners in their health through health IT.

Birnbaum’s session at AHIMA’s 85th Convention & Exhibit, “The Role of the HIM Professional in Engaging Consumers in Healthcare Decision Making,” Monday, October 28 at 4:30 p.m., will explore how to leverage health IT to make our complex healthcare system safer, more personalized, and more user-friendly for healthcare consumers. Birnbaum spoke with the Journal of AHIMA about some of the consumer engagement issues her session will explore.


What will HIM professionals who attend your presentation learn about consumer engagement?

My presentation will give the backdrop on how providing access to an individual’s medical record contributes to the goal of improving health. Connecting the dots: You can’t improve your health if you’re not knowledgeable about your past treatment and your current acute and chronic conditions that need to be managed and treated.

I’m also going to focus on some best practice research associated with consumer engagement in healthcare, and talk about building the business case for why it’s so important to engage consumers in actively accessing and maintaining their health record. And I want to showcase some of the new roles for HIM professionals, to provide the education, technology, communication, and feedback to enable consumer involvement. We all need to get involved and engaged in this.


Where is healthcare right now in terms of consumer engagement? Are patients seeing things like EHRs and mobile technology as healthcare tools?

From the provider’s standpoint, I see that we’re doing a much better job as far as providing patient access to their record, but it’s only at a very high level (problem list, medications, allergies only). Even though you may have access to whatever portal your healthcare provider is using, it’s the in-between areas where there might be gaps. If you cross over and go to several different health systems, you could potentially have three different portals. We really haven’t advanced to the state where there is one big, happy health information exchange that’s connected. And I really don’t think the average citizen on the street knows what we’re trying to do to advance some of those goals.


What are some things people need to know around making the business case for patient engagement?

Large, complex, bureaucratic healthcare systems can be very intimidating for patients, and they may not be able to navigate the system well. We can help with that education and make it easier for them. We as HIM professionals need to get the stakeholders together, identify the barriers, the opportunities, and what we need to do improve patient engagement.


1 Comment

  1. Cassi,
    Look forward to your session. I also see HIM professionals great Ambassadors for IT, helping patients enroll in portals, explaining what information is valuable and for what purposes, etc. Sort of like the Delta Red Coats in Atlanta. The single biggest requirement of MU Stage 2 will be the requirement to have 5% of unique patients view, download and transmit records. HIM can help get patients enrolled and active on portals.

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