AOE Attendees Take ‘Innovate or Commiserate’ Message to Heart

Although only one of Tuesday morning’s AHIMA Assembly on Education Symposium (AOE) presentations was titled “Innovate or Commiserate,” the phrase could have been the theme of this morning’s sessions.

Leaders in health information management (HIM) education continued to address the many of the regulatory and financial challenges facing HIM educators and students at Tuesday morning’s AOE sessions, held in Chicago, IL.


Developing a Plan of ICD-10 Action

One of the biggest worries for HIM professionals right now is, of course, the delayed implementation of ICD-10. During a panel discussion with AHIMA’s leadership, AHIMA President Angela Kennedy, EdD, MBA, RHIA, urged educators to be as active as possible at the grassroots level. She also cautioned educators to get permission from the institutions where they teach before scheduling visits and meetings with local and national legislators.

“You’re representing your profession, so you may need permission. My boss wanted to know who I was going to be meeting with. [Your employer] may make you promise not to discuss non-educational topics,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also encouraged educators to take healthcare practitioners or consumers with them to legislator visits, particularly a practitioner or consumer who has had trouble being paid for a claim due to lack of specificity with the ICD-9 code set.

“Get your story together and be passionate,” Kennedy urged.

During the same presentation, Desla Mancilla, DHA, RHIA, senior director of academic affairs, AHIMA Foundation, discussed the Foundation’s High School Pathways Project, which is still in the development phase. The goal of the project is to raise awareness of HIM as a profession and will include the development of a curriculum for these students.


The Professional Practice Experience Conundrum

A casual, instant poll of AOE attendees asked whether educators were having a more difficult time finding professional practice experience (PPE) sites when a major court ruling in 2012 set new limits on unpaid interns.

Several court cases, including a 2013 case involving film industry interns, have led companies to follow Department of Labor (DOL) criteria for unpaid internships. As the New York Times reported on that case, DOL rules state that “unpaid internships should not be to the immediate advantage of the employer, the work must be similar to vocational training given in an educational environment, the experience must be for the benefit of the intern and the intern’s work must not displace that of regular employees.”

Alice M. Noblin, PhD, RHIA, CCS, with the health management and informatics department at the University of Central Florida stressed that hands-on, face-to-face interactions with HIM professionals is the gold standard when it comes to training students. However, she urged employers and educators to be mindful of current regulations and to seek out possible alternatives to unpaid internships.

“In view of legal challenges, we have to make sure we have our bases covered,” said panelist Ellen Shakespeare Karl, MBA, RHIA, CHDA, FAHIMA.

Noblin recommended possible alternatives to internships, though she noted that hands-on, face-to-face interaction between practitioners and students is the gold standard. Alternatives could include site visits, hospital visits, interviewing practitioners, attendance to webinars and V-labs, and encouraging participation in state component association events.


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