Delegates Contemplate Future of ‘House without Walls’

As the profession moves into the era of “HIM Without Walls,” what does it mean to work in health information management? This question was the underlying theme of discussions during Sunday’s House of Delegates meeting, which organizers titled “A Successful House without Walls.”

The AHIMA bylaws state that the House of Delegates’ role is “to govern the profession of health information management.” As the profession evolves, the delegates must understand how the House will evolve as well.

In breakout groups, the participants brainstormed on the purpose of the House, delegate engagement and qualifications, and developing an agreed-upon definition of the HIM profession.

Delegates identified trends that influence the definition of the HIM profession:

  • Centralization of organizations
  • Specialization of HIM
  • Virtual work force
  • Continued “HIM without walls”
  • Emerging nontraditional and data/information governance roles


Recommendations from the discussion included:

  • Incorporate “informatics” into the HIM acronym
  • Increase focus on technological governance and skills to produce usable business intelligence
  • Create an “hourglass” diagram to describe all the things HIM professionals do with data
  • Use action verbs in the HIM definition; “Lead, analyze, manage, protect” (LAMP) are all key verbs
  • Consolidate credentials for better understanding
  • An idea for a definition of the profession: “HIM professionals make health information ready to use for care, safe from breaches, and provide a complete picture of your health.”
‘We Have Been Busy’

In her address to the delegates, Speaker of the House Laura Pait, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, updated attendees on House activities to date. She noted that a 2016 Environmental Scan Report will be forthcoming in January. Pait also provided an update on the activities of the HIM practice councils, including clinical terminology and classifications, enterprise information management, health information exchange, and privacy and security. Significant work was also done by several task forces in areas such as care coordination, clinical documentation improvement, consumer engagement, data and information analysis, and standards.

“We have been busy; it’s going to get busier,” Pait said. “We have talked about important issues with our members, but there’s more to do.”

‘You Did the Heavy Lifting’

AHIMA President Cassi Birnbaum, MS, RHIA, CPHQ, FAHIMA, and AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, provided an annual report of AHIMA’s most recent activities around the five strategic pillars of informatics, information governance, innovation, leadership, and public good, as well as the pillar of overall operational excellence.

Birnbaum described the progress AHIMA has made this year in advancing its information governance (IG) initiative. “This is an area we know very well,” Birnbaum said. “We need to be leading this initiative. We want all of you to have the information and best practices so that it can really take off.”

Earlier this summer, AHIMA released a new white paper examining the readiness of healthcare professionals to address the demands they face in IG, as well as career opportunities in IG. In August, a new IG Toolkit was released, sharing best practices and resources for starting and implementing IG within an organization. This week, AHIMA will introduce new services to provide additional support as healthcare organizations implement IG. “We need to get a return on our information. We need to make sure we’re getting the right structure in place for organizations to make good decisions,” Birnbaum said.

Under the informatics pillar, Birnbaum noted that the industry is only a few days away from the long-awaited October 1 date of ICD-10-CM/PCS implementation. Birnbaum thanked everyone who had participated in AHIMA’s #ICD10Matters campaign, which resulted in more than 36,000 letters being sent to Congress as well as more than 90,000 Tweets using the #ICD10Matters hashtag generated. “This will be the last convention where we will have to talk about ICD-10 implementation, because we’ll have already crossed that finish line,” Birnbaum said. “You did the heavy lifting. Our efforts were unprecedented.”

Under the pillar of innovation, the speakers reported that in September the AHIMA Foundation was awarded a $4.9 million grant from the US Department of Labor to fund a health information apprenticeship program for 1,200 participants nationwide. The program will help recent college graduates and working learners break into health data management careers.

“Through the apprenticeship program, we want to make sure we help students and career changers get a little more confidence,” Gordon said. “[This grant] will make a huge difference to our members and will help us innovate.”

Also in the innovation category, AHIMA convention attendees this week can find out more about the new online service AHIMA Code-CheckTM, which will answer ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, CPT, or HCPCS coding questions. Code-CheckTM provides the healthcare industry a central location for coding questions based on AHIMA’s current place as the industry leader in coding education. The service will debut October 12.

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