Convention Q and A: How to Stop the Complaining and Find Solutions

Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA, is assistant chief of HIM at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. During AHIMA’s Convention in New Orleans, LA, she will present “Journey Toward the Complaint-Free HIM Department,” Tuesday, September 29, 4:30-5:30 p.m., at the at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Rooms 243-245. She recently talked to Journal of AHIMA about how to stop complaining in the HIM department and in life.



Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA

Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA

What’s the problem with complaining?

The biggest problem with complaining is that it keeps us focused on “what’s wrong”—to the exclusion of solutions. It’s similar to when we are thinking of buying a new car, and we begin to see that car everywhere. When our focus is on what’s not working for us, we see what’s not working everywhere we go – just like that car. When we learn to shift our focus from “what’s wrong” in our lives to what’s right, more of “what’s right” shows up.



Are complaints ever useful?

By definition, complaining is a passive behavior and achieves very little. However, addressing an issue directly and only with the person or people who can do something about it is not a complaint.


Let’s say a particular service line is always late in signing discharge summaries and history & physical exams. As the HIM director, you are committed to decreasing the facility’s delinquency rate, but this one service line is impeding progress toward this goal. You could:


  • Complain to your colleagues and employees. But that isn’t going to do anything except spread around negativity.


  • Take your concern and a suggested solution to the service line leaders. That can be a big step toward solving the problem and won’t leave a trail of negativity behind.


Speaking only to the people who can rectify the issue keeps the negativity from spreading like a virus. Speaking directly to those people is taking action and will very often end in a resolution.



And are there particular complaints that are particular or common to the HIM department?

In healthcare, change is critical to improved patient care. None of us would want to live in a world where we never moved past sulfa drugs for treating infections, or exploratory surgery for identifying internal issues. But in the past few years, with major changes like the shift to electronic health records, meaningful use requirements, and ICD-10 implementation, it can begin to feel that change is our enemy.


But change is here to stay. Soon, ICD-10 will be “the way we’ve always done it,” and there will still be new initiatives, new discoveries, and new ways of doing our jobs. It’s better to learn how to adapt positively than to spend our careers mired in negativity.



Who do you think would benefit from your session?

Directors and managers looking for a way to change the conversation within their HIM departments. And anyone who wants a new tool for creating positive change in their lives, at work or at home.



To see this presentation at AHIMA’s Annual Convention and Exhibit in New Orleans this year, see the info below:

Journey Toward the Complaint-Free HIM Department

Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA

Rooms 243-245, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

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