Speakers Discuss the Promise of Technology, Power of Empathy

Technology is transforming the healthcare landscape—but empathy and communication are still important, as the presentations at Monday’s General Session illustrated.

Game Changer

At the session AHIMA President Diann Smith, MS, RHIA, CHP, FAHIMA, talked about the ways technology has affected HIM at her organization.

“We are bold, we are fearless, we are prepared!” says AHIMA President Diann Smith during her General Session presentation.

“I work for a large healthcare system and led the centralization of the health information management (HIM) division,” Smith said. “This was a huge change that impacted a vast amount of resources and how HIM professionals support the rest of the system. With centralization, we no longer have decentralized departments or staff at multiple locations, which resulted in standardized, efficient processes across the entire system.” Technology was the game changer that made this possible, she said.

And the game changers continue to march forward. “Patient-generated data and ease of access are huge game changers in healthcare because consumers make decisions about their health data with the ability to share directly with their providers through virtual visits, apps, or even wearables. The future is now!” Smith said. “What role will the HIM professional play in this reality? These are very exciting times as healthcare is on the path of redefining how it delivers value-based care at lower cost. What better time than now for HIM professionals to be at the forefront of leading initiatives that have a long-lasting impact?”

Like healthcare, AHIMA is also transforming, Smith said. “The great news is, we are in the position to choose to be the catalyst in preparing and leading innovative changes. We envision an association that is pliable, innovative, member-focused, and solves important issues. We have the ability to strengthen our association and profession,” she said.

Patients First

Also at Monday’s General Session was Delos Cosgrove, MD, former president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, who appeared in conversation with Carlos Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System. Cosgrove was president/CEO of the Cleveland Clinic from 2004 to 2017 and under his leadership the organization became a national model of quality, accountability, and patient satisfaction.

“I had to go out and buy suits, because I couldn’t wear scrubs anymore,” says Delos Cosgrove, MD, (left) on his transition from cardiac surgeon to president/CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

Cosgrove told the audience how he moved the clinic to a more patient-centric model by changing the paradigm for employees so that “everyone is a caregiver” no matter what their role in the organization was. “We saw more engagement and better patient experience,” Cosgrove said. A former cardiac surgeon, Cosgrove said his orientation was “cut well, sew well, do well.” As a CEO, he realized that wasn’t enough, and the clinic also began to look at physical elements of the patient experience and emotional aspects. “This has been an amazing transformation for a very big organization,” Cosgrove said. “You can have an empathetic organization that puts itself in patients’ shoes.”

Cosgrove said he realized he was unprepared to be CEO, so he studied and also put into place structures that would build leadership experience and education for other physicians as well. “Leadership can affect quality. It’s about leading people, not about your resume,” he said.

On the national environment, Cosgrove said, “We’re in a tough place with rising costs of healthcare. All the factors are stacked against us. We have an aging population and more things that we can do for them.” At the same time, as social programs are reduced, social determinants such as poverty and obesity can drive up the cost of care. The opioid crisis is also an urgent situation, he said. “I would ask you guys to understand how bad this problem is and talk about it in your hospitals; talk every place you can about it. …It will take the entire country to rally around this issue.”

To the HIM audience, Cosgrove said, “you really are the heart and soul of what’s going to be happening in the future.” In an environment where healthcare information is rapidly proliferating, “We are swamped in data. This provides an enormous opportunity to change healthcare and make it more effective and higher quality. The bad news is, we’re drowning. We need to learn how to manage it,” Cosgrove said. “We can learn things we’ve never learned before. Imagine what we’ll find when we look at the data of one million patients with artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

“Everyone in this room has a story,” says communications expert Victoria Labalme.

Finding the Hidden Genius

Communications expert Victoria Labalme told the audience how they could apply performing arts principles to transform their performance in life. She urged listeners to release their “hidden genius” and to discover their own personal “through line” that guides them through life. “When you operate at your best is when you are led by that through line,” Labalme said.

Labalme advised listeners to frame their actions in terms of a positive framework that will engage others. “Remember the lives you’re saving, the people you’re helping,” she said. “The time to express your hidden genius is now.”

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