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AHIMA: Focus on Healthcare Big Data Analytics, Informatics in 2018

Big data analytics, information governance, and informatics will be among the eight top issues of 2018, AHIMA predicts.

AHIMA predicts top issues of 2018

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- The need for big data analytics, improved informatics, and stronger information governance will be some of the top issues for healthcare organizations in 2018, according to a recent article from the Journal of AHIMA.

The coming year is set to bring regulatory changes and new challenges for healthcare providers.  To overcome these obstacles, healthcare organizations will need to leverage their big data assets with the help of qualified informaticists, analysts, and health information management (HIM) professionals.

“Health information management is an integral part of the healthcare industry,” said Pamela Lane, interim CEO of AHIMA.

“At a time when the industry continues to be in flux, HIM professionals are qualified to address and help meet the challenges and changes that 2018 will bring.”

Demand for big data analytics

The industry need for analytics services and projects will increase in 2018, according to Lesley Kaldec, MA, RHIA, CHDA, director of HIM practice at AHIMA.

READ MORE: Big Data Analytics, Population Health Top Executive Priority List

“In pay for performance, data analytics can help organizations make effective use of operational and technical resources, can assist with decisions on mergers and acquisitions, and help identify opportunities for new services in the community,” she says.

The regulatory reporting requirements that come with initiatives like MACRA will also keep data analysts busy in the next year, adds Kaldec. They will need to evaluate changes and ensure that data can be captured and reported.

Efficient informatics

Informaticists will work to reduce physician burnout with EHRs in 2018 by helping to optimize workflows and interfaces, according to Patty Buttner, RHIA, CDIP, CHDA, CPHI, a director of HIM practice excellence at AHIMA.

“Being involved in the creation of ‘short’ or ‘pick’ lists in the EHR may help to decrease time spent on clicking and scrolling in the EHR. Natural language processing can be implemented as well to help reduce the need to key information into the EHR,” Buttner says.

Buttner adds that informaticists will help secure patient-generated health data in mobile apps and develop interfaces and dashboards for telehealth services in the coming year.

Improving information governance

READ MORE: Big Data Analytics Can Bring Visibility, Value to Healthcare

Enterprise-wide information retention policies will continue to trouble providers in 2018, according to Kathy Downing, MA, RHIA, CHPS, PMP, AHIMA’s vice president of informatics, information governance (IG), and standards.

Downing says that organizations with legacy health IT systems continue to have cybersecurity issues. Additionally, while organizations have data analytics and informatics tools, most still struggle with data quality.

Starting an IG program can help overcome these issues, Downing says.

A recent AHIMA survey found that organizations do understand the need for solid IG programs. Of 1,500 healthcare professionals polled, 53 percent of respondents said they have IG programs in place or recognize the need for IG.

Fourteen percent have initiated organization-wide IG programs, and 18 percent have started IG-related projects.

Advancing education

READ MORE: Information Governance Gaining Ground in Healthcare Organizations

In 2018, HIM students and practitioners will acquire more data analytics and informatics skills.

Desla Mancilla, DHA, RHIA, vice president of academic and certification services at AHIMA, says that current HIM professionals will add to their existing skills for more advanced roles in both data analytics and informatics.

In addition, academic faculty will prepare to teach more advanced content in data analytics, and will revise the curriculum to ensure students are ready for the workforce.

Expanding clinical documentation improvement

Clinical documentation improvement (CDI) specialists will continue to assist claim denials teams in 2018, according to Tammy Combs, RN, MSN, CCS, CCDS, CDIP, director of HIM practice excellence, CDI/nurse planner at AHIMA.

She says that CDI specialists will help identify denied claims that should be appealed. CDI specialists will also continue to expand into specialty areas of care, including psychiatric units and rehab facilities.

“With the shift to value-based reimbursement it is it is becoming crucial for all settings to have high quality documentation across the continuum of care,” Combs says.

More inpatient and outpatient coding

The four main issues that will impact inpatient and outpatient coding in 2018 are reimbursement, telemedicine, copy/paste in EHR, and coding auditing, says Donna Rugg, RHIT, CDIP, CCS, director of HIM practice excellence at AHIMA.

MACRA will also require physicians to start reporting patient relationship modifiers, Rugg notes. She also says that MACRA and hierarchical condition category (HCC) coding will be priorities for providers and coding professionals.

Increasing privacy and security

Lauren Riplinger, JD, senior director of federal relations at AHIMA, says that HIM professionals should pay close attention to the issuing of additional “minimum necessary” requirements.

She also says HIM professionals should look for guidance on mental health and data sharing as authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act.

HIM professionals should also pay attention to advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on accounting for disclosures, and a notice of proposed rulemaking on the penalty sharing provision of the HITECH Act.

Changing rules and regulations

The 2018 budget will affect the funding of the ONC and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), according to AHIMA.

HIM experts say that ONC’s upcoming definition of “information blocking” will enable the Office of the Inspector General to begin enforcement against the practice. They predict that this will be a major trend to watch in 2018.

Another issue to watch: ONC addressing the burden of time physicians spend on EHR documentation. This could impact clinical documentation and data quality, both of which directly relate to HIM.


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