When the Map is Blank

When the Map is Blank

By Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE

It’s hard to chart a course when the way forward is unclear.

As I write this, the world is responding to the pandemic spread of the COVID-19 virus. Healthcare organizations are gearing up, schools and businesses are closing down. We wash our hands relentlessly and deep clean our offices and homes to protect against an unseen enemy.

By the time you read this, we’ll know if all this preparation was effective. But right now, in late March, it feels like every map is blank.

Our organization is more than 90 years old, and throughout pandemics, world wars, and economic downturns, HIM professionals have endured. In 1943, halfway through World War II, AHIMA’s founder Grace Whiting Myers observed:

“It has been a hard year for everyone, and I believe particularly so for those connected with any kind of hospital work. Record librarians, along with others, have been faced with a shortage of materials and also with a curtailment in number of assistants and a constant change in personnel, always disrupting to any work of importance. However, I am proud of all that I have read and heard of your splendid efforts in carrying on, and especially am I proud of those who have gone into actual war service. It is what I have hoped would happen.”1

Grace knew, as we know today, that health information professionals will do what they have always done in a time of crisis: show up and step up.

We do this because we know that health information is human information, and that behind every piece of data, there’s a patient.

We know, too, that as we find a post-pandemic “new normal,” there will be opportunities for innovation, creativity, and leadership. This year AHIMA is introducing new training to support you as you take advantage of these opportunities. We are working with the leader in management training, the Ken Blanchard Group, to offer a series of courses for how to be a better leader. These courses, some virtual and some face-to-face, offer learning opportunities both for individual contributors and managers to improve their skills. Look for more communications about this program in email and on ahima.org.

In addition to covering breaking news related to the COVID-19 pandemic online, the Journal of AHIMA looks at ongoing issues where HIM has an opportunity to solve problems and lead. In “If Patients only Knew…” Mary Butler asked HIM professionals what they wished patients knew about how they can take responsibility for their own health data and avoid problems related to duplicate records and identity mismatches.

Lisa Eramo reports on five trends that will affect patient matching in 2020 and beyond. Climate disasters, like pandemics, can cause health problems; Allison Viola examines ways we can understand this connection and put systems in place to prepare for future scenarios in “Preparing Healthcare for Climate Change.”

Online, please bookmark our COVID-19 page at https://journal.ahima.org/covid-19-news-and-resources for continually updated news on global response to the pandemic; AHIMA’s COVID-19 resource index at www.ahima.org/topics/covid-19 for the latest tools and resources from AHIMA and public health organizations; and https://engage.ahima.org to particpate in our COVID-19 Community Forum.
The way forward will require authentic, insightful, and confident leadership, and as HIM professionals, we can do that.


Grace Whiting Myers, letter to the AAMRL 15th Annual Convention, September 15, 1943.

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