- The health information management profession is changing at a blistering pace as the industry moves from volume to value, requiring HIM professionals to embrace new roles in data analytics, information governance, and informatics, AHIMA leaders said at the 2016 Convention today.
“Existing roles are changing so quickly, and new jobs are being created every day that require HIM expertise,” said Board of Directors President and Chair Elect Ann Chenoweth, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA. “This will require all of us to go beyond the status quo and try something very, very new.”
Her opening remarks captured the spirit of the conference, which is focused on equipping HIM workers with the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing environment. The value-based care transition is increasingly requiring organizations to treat data as the lifeblood of patient care, a concept that is already familiar to the HIM profession.
“Health information has always been at the very heart of what we do,” said Chenoweth. “Health information managers are the ones who understand information governance, data integrity, and coding. We understand analytics. We understand privacy. We understand how to optimize clinical information in the EHR. It’s only with this information that our system can achieve higher value, lower costs, and make the experience better for the patients we serve.”
AHIMA released its information governance framework in 2014 as a way to prepare the industry for the onslaught of big data analytics – and ensure that AHIMA members can leverage their existing competencies to become leaders in the data analytics ecosystem, said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon.
“We’re going to do operational informatics and analytics and be champions of information governance,” she said. “But we’re also going to remain true to our competencies. Our strengths are in coding, standards, auditing, compliance, privacy and security. We’re known for those skills. We’re already good at that. That’s our foundation.”
But coding as an independent activity and unique skill set may not be around forever, Thomas Gordon warned. In many different industries, including banking and retail, previously separate activities are now merging into a seamless experience for consumers – and that shift may happen in the healthcare world, as well.
“How many of you have used the Starbucks app that lets you pre-order and pay for your drink?” she asked to a strong showing of caffeinated hands. “Banking as a separate activity is disappearing. It’s being integrated into all your other experiences.”
“Could coding as a distinct activity disappear and be embedded in the EHR as an automated feature? I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t happen in the next decade if not sooner,” she predicted. “We need to think about how this kind of disruption can transform our roles and how we need to embrace the jobs of the future. Classification of data is invaluable, and will always be needed. But we need to move this specific skill into the jobs of the future.”
Expertise in information governance, not just coding, will ensure that AHIMA remains an influential force in the healthcare industry, Thomas Gordon added.
Setting up and maintaining a strong data governance program will be an essential first step for organizations hoping to succeed under MACRA, which is ushering in the Quality Payment Program on January 1, 2017.
“Value-based care is a paradigm that’s caused a huge shift in the way we do business,” said Dr. Susan Turney, MD, MS, FACMPE, FACP, who serves as the CEO of the Marshfield Clinic Health System. “I keep telling my board this is a revolution, not an evolution. We have to face that. When you think about MACRA and how we’re going to implement it, it’s daunting. It’s driving us to think differently about how we deliver care and how we pay for it.”
“But most of the things we need to do aren’t new to the industry,” she pointed out. “We’ve talked about using data to reinvent the patient care flow. We’re talked about integration, interoperability, and getting information at the point of care, but no one has been able to completely accomplish this. We have a lot of data, but we’re not always great at getting what we need at the right time.”
Unless the healthcare industry can solve these intractable problems, “we’re not going to meet the demands of patients,” she said, “and I don’t know how we’re going to get paid unless we implement these things across the healthcare system.”
The challenges are many, Chenoweth added, but healthcare professionals should aim to embrace change rather than fear it.
“While we may be in the midst of transition, some of which we may question and shake our heads at, we must never lose sight of the enormous positive opportunities for us to capture and develop,” she urged the audience.
“Some of the challenges we face include the rapid pace of change with how data is captured, used, and secured. The entire structure of the healthcare industry is changing, which is affecting how we work. And we’re all facing a shortage of resources that make it difficult to achieve the goals we want across the healthcare industry. But there’s never been a more important and exciting time to be part of the HIM profession.”