HIM Professionals Change the World

HIM Professionals Change the World

By Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE

The American Society of Association Executives is celebrating “100 Years of Associations” this year with an interactive timeline highlighting “the positive impact of associations on world history over the last 100 years.” Inspired, we looked through our archives to see how AHIMA and HIM professionals have changed the world, and we found some things you may have forgotten about. For instance:

  • In 1955, AHIMA (then known as the American Association of Medical Record Librarians) collaborated with the Food and Drug Administration and the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists to develop better methods of reporting adverse drug reactions, with the goal of addressing the problem with a coordinated national response.
  • In 1991, AHIMA (then known as the American Medical Record Association) helped fund research that resulted in the Institution of Medicine report “The Computer-Based Patient Record: Revised Edition: An Essential Technology for Health Care,” a seminal publication that mapped out the future of healthcare and electronic health records.
  • In 2003, AHIMA collaborated with the American Hospital Association on a pilot test of the ICD-10 coding system, still years from implementation. The field test results were used to create a final version of ICD-10-CM.
  • For 13 years, AHIMA advocated for better legislative protection for genetic information, work that helped bring about the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, a major breakthrough in consumer protection.

These are just a few of the times HIM professionals and AHIMA have changed the world. And we have more opportunities to keep doing so, because we understand the power of the story health information tells. This year, you’ll be hearing more about social determinants of health (SDOH), which are defined as the societal and environmental conditions and attributes that contribute to an individual’s health and to the way they receive healthcare. AHIMA believes the availability and exchange of this data will improve health—for both individuals and for populations.

As a profession, we’re not done changing the world.

It’s a timely topic. In January, a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that nearly half of lower- and middle-income adults struggle to pay their dental and healthcare bills. Such findings, and the story they tell of a need for healthcare policies that promote greater equity and access to care, are directly tied to the need to address the social determinants of health.

In this month’s cover story, “Whole-Person Healthcare,” Matt Schlossberg explores how the strategic incorporation of social determinants data can drive innovations in care, and how the HIM team is a key stakeholder in formulating an interdisciplinary strategy to do so.

As HIM professionals, we are helping to drive the transformation of health and healthcare by the work we do: advancing the importance of the integrity of healthcare information, access to information, and privacy and security of information. And, perhaps just as importantly, we understand the human stories the information tells as well.

We’ll have more to say on this topic as 2020 unfolds, because as a profession, we’re not done changing the world.