Panel: HIM Should Be at the Center of Patient Engagement Efforts

Two sessions at AHIMA’s 2015 Leadership Symposium, held in Chicago, IL on Friday, underscored the important role health information management (HIM) professionals play in patient advocacy.

In the session “Health Information Management: A Blueprint for the Public Good,” Vera Rulon, MS, RHIT, FAHIMA, discussed important AHIMA initiatives to empower and educate consumers. At the outset, Rulon noted that she was reluctant to speak about patient empowerment without the perspective of a patient.

That’s where Rulon’s co-presenter, Amanda Michelle Jones, MS, MA, a social work PhD candidate, came in. Jones discussed the tedious and expensive process she’s undertaken to retrieve and organize her records in the face of new diagnoses and multiple injuries and surgeries.

Rulon discussed AHIMA’s progress with projects such as the “Consumer Health Information Bill of Rights,” AHIMA’s partnership with Sharecare, and other HIM-related patient engagement products, such as the Blue Button Initiative, the Open Notes Project, and most recently, AHIMA’s involvement with the “Get My Health Data” movement.

Rulon moderated the next session, a panel discussion featuring Jones as well as AHIMA Past President Angela Kennedy, EdD, MBA, RHIA, and neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, MD. Together, the panelists took questions from the audience about how to engage patients while health information exchanges (HIE) and interoperability are still new and relatively immature.

Kennedy said the lack of support for a national patient identifier means that consumers need to become more organized and methodical when it comes to acquiring and sharing their own health records.

“Care is a partnership—in the new ecosystem, the patient sits at the center. It’s just as much my responsibility as it is my physician or therapist. As patients, we’ve been taught to be passive,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy noted that since providers often cannot share and exchange patient data from site to site, patients should do the archiving. But convincing patients to do that takes education.

“We talk about patient engagement. HIM can be the driving force behind this if we get out in our communities,” she said. “I think we can be catalysts behind change here.”

In the wake of multiple healthcare and government data breaches in recent months, one audience member noted that consumers might be reluctant to opt into an HIE if offered the opportunity by a provider.

“If your provider is opt-in, there should be brochures they [patients] can pick up. Present it in simple terms,” Kennedy urged. “We are at the heart of this change. We have to inform them. Tell them the risks and benefits.”

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