“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?