Can HIM and technology be friends?

Let’s face it. Technology changes every industry. This is especially true in HIM as it continues to revolutionize the way in which providers release health information, document in the medical record, assign codes, and more. How can HIM professionals keep up, and what must they do to stay current? These are two of the many questions that arose during the recent RIHIMA meeting on February 9 in Warwick. Approximately 50 people attended the event.

The future of HIM

Now that the hurdle of ICD-10 implementation has passed, AHIMA has set its sights on data analytics and information governance, both of which require a new level of training at the master’s or doctorate levels, said Donna Corbani, CCS. Corbani attended the 2017 AHIMA House of Delegates meeting in October and reported on several AHIMA initiatives. “We have to embrace technology to be relevant,” she added. “Automation is coming.”

Specific EHR certifications are helpful, said Corbani. “You’re golden when you have this and a background in HIM,” she added.

HIM must convey to executives that no technology is 100% accurate and that coders must validate coded data, said Corbani. One attendee voiced concerns about computer-assisted coding, stating that HIM must educate senior leaders about its limitations and flaws. Another attendee said HIM needs to be at the table as EMRs are developed and implemented because they can shed light on the flaws inherent in many products, preventing executives from having false hope that the technology will be a panacea.

HIM and IT also need to work together to develop best practices for EHR use and maintenance. Requiring users to ‘open a help ticket’ isn’t efficient in a rapidly-changing patient care environment, said one attendee.

Managing health information for transgender patients

Angela Carr, partner at Barton Gilman, LLP, provided an informative session on how healthcare providers can manage electronic health information most effectively for transgender patients by developing a policy for release of information, name changes, and more.

“The more we learn and talk about it, the better we’re going to be at providing care. The ultimate goal is to provide better care for this population,” said Carr. HIM can help by developing a policy to address the following:

*Data capture — Help providers explain to patients why they collect information about gender identity and preferred pronouns (e.g., for continuity of care, preventive care, etc.).

*HIPAA authorizations — Explain how and why providers may share information about gender identity and sexual orientation when it relates to treatment. This requires an explanation of uses and disclosures for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations, said Carr. Patient education must happen long before records are completed. This would help avoid conflict when sensitive information in the discharge summary is auto-faxed to the patient’s primary care physician, she added.

*Names/name changes —  Explain how the provider handles patient name and any subsequent name changes. For example, the medical record includes the individual’s legal name as it appears on their insurance card, but the provider uses an ‘aka’ when communicating directly with the patient.

Carr suggested conducting focus groups with transgender patients to see what they want and need. “The best way to learn is to talk to the people you’re trying to protect,” she said. “Be honest, and have a dialogue with people.” She also directed attendees to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Reducing cancer in Rhode Island

David Rousseau, chair of the Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, talked about the importance of data in cancer research. Approximately 6,700 people in Rhode Island are diagnosed with cancer annually, and approximately 43,000 residents are living with cancer already.

Rousseau’s team is at the forefront of prevention. His team examined more than 500 people at various skin cancer screening events throughout 2017, helping individuals who couldn’t get a timely appointment with a dermatologist. This year, Rousseau said the partnership will be looking more closely at the large number of individuals who have insurance but don’t undergo preventive colonoscopies. Approximately 650 Rhode Islanders are diagnosed with colon and rectal cancers annually.

What’s at the heart of this research? Coded data.

 

 

 

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Inspiration, innovation key themes at the 2016 annual AHIMA convention

20161018_211108“Inspire big thinking to launch our future” was the theme of the 88th annual AHIMA convention held October 16-19 in Baltimore, MD. And wow, did it inspire. I imagine that most HIM professionals walked away from the event feeling incredibly energized about the role they’ll play in this new era of big data and patient engagement.

In my opinion, the most powerful presentation was that of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first doctor to diagnose chronic brain damage in NFL athletes. He also inspired the movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith. Dr. Omalu received frequent applause as he shared his personal journey–one in which he overcame insurmountable odds in war-torn Nigeria to not only attend medical school at the age of 15 but also to ultimately make a discovery that revolutionized neuroscience and sports medicine/safety. I had goosebumps just listening to him. As I watched and listened in awe, I was reminded that with hard work, passion, and a little luck, anything is possible. This is an important lesson for everyone, including HIM professionals working tirelessly to improve compliance and data integrity within their organizations.

Retired American astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain Mark Kelly continued the theme of inspiration as he spoke about his career flying 39 combat missions over Iraq and Kuwait during the first Gulf War. He also described in vivid detail what it felt like to blast off in a rocket when he served as the commander of space shuttle “Endeavor” on its final flight. His talk then turned personal as he spoke about the day his wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was severely wounded after being shot in the head at near point-blank range. Giffords joined him on stage at the conclusion of the talk and received a standing ovation.

Many of the sessions throughout the duration of the conference focused on thinking ‘outside the box’ of traditional HIM roles.

For example, ONC Chief Medical Information Officer Andrew Gettinger, MD, encouraged HIM professionals to help their organizations integrate patient-generated data into the EHR–especially as medical care continues to move outside of a hospital’s four walls. He said HIM is also well-suited to help organizations “harvest digital dividends” from EHRs–that is, use the technology (and big data) to solve operational challenges and problems.

During a panel discussion about the future of healthcare, AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, encouraged attendees to imagine the HIM jobs of the future–and take steps now to prepare. Is higher education warranted? A specialty credential? She said to embrace industry changes–not simply react to them.

Panelists identified these healthcare trends that will continue to shape HIM in the years to come:

  • Push for transparency around healthcare costs
  • Integration of patient-generated data for a 360 degree holistic view of one’s health
  • Increased interoperability to meet patients’ demands and coordinate care more effectively
  • Best practices to educate patients about their health information
  • Best-of-breed strategic partnerships
  • Availability of clinical information at the point of care

Others spoke about new and emerging roles in HIM, including data scientist and healthcare data quality manager. Michelle Basco, RHIA, of Children’s Medical Center spoke about her own journey to become a personal health record coordinator. HIM professionals are uniquely qualified to engage and educate patients. “They need to learn, and they need us by the side,” she said.

Various speakers also talked about the importance of developing an HIM workforce to meet the job demands of the future. Apprenticeship programs are critical, said Bill Rudman, PhD, RHIA, executive director of the AHIMA Foundation. “We’re evolving so quickly with technology. On-the-job experience is so necessary,” he added.

Marci Wilhelm, of MedPartners, said apprentices with whom she’s worked achieved a 95% coding accuracy rate in only 90 days. Debra Boppre, MSM, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, FAHIMA, of Trinity Health recounted a similar experience with apprentices who helped address coding backlogs at their facility.

Boppre encouraged other HIM professionals consider serving as mentors. “You owe it to these HIM professionals,” she said. “Invest the time, and you will see the return on investment over and over again.”

Information governance was also a hot topic. During a panel discussion, panelist Sally Beahan, RHIA, MHA, director of HIM at UW Medicine said to start small by identifying the ways in which HIM is already striving to enhance data integrity. Others shared their journeys toward information governance and encouraged HIM professionals to champion the effort within their organizations.

Did you attend the AHIMA convention? If so, what did you take away from it? What inspired you the most?