|Takeaways from AHIMA 2019|
By Jennifer MacKinnon, RRT, CHIM
As an HIM professional who is new to the field, I had the opportunity to attend AHIMA 2019 in Chicago this past September. Given all that the conference had to offer, the biggest challenge was choosing what presentations to attend — there was so much choice!
I should mention that even though I’m new to the HIM world, I am not new to health care. I have over 20 years of experience working as a respiratory therapist in the community. In my current job, I organize and lead the development of health care professional educational programs and knowledge translation tools for a not-for-profit health-related charity. My goal in attending the conference was to come away with an increased understanding of the diverse roles of HIMs in healthcare, understand how these roles impact the health of patients, and broaden my knowledge in health information exchange and consumer access to health information. Here are five of my key takeaways:
1. Information systems, in many diverse ways, impact the health and well-being of patients
Geographic information systems (GIS) are being used in many ways to impact patient health and well-being. It’s all about the science of ‘where’ and understanding that 80% of health outcomes are context driven. GIS gives us the broad view needed to know exactly what health care services are required in a certain location. It also can empower patients by allowing the customization of patient portals so that individuals can easily see and access the resources necessary based on their individual health care needs. These are just a few examples of the ways GIS is being used in the healthcare setting.
2. Health information exchanges are spreading quickly, creating the critical information networks needed to support patients and patient care
One example that stands out in my mind is the Patient Unified Look Up System (PULSE) for Emergencies. The speaker shared a story of a patient who, during the wildfires in California last year, needed his medication but had no access to his prescri and ensuring that the health care services they need are available when and where they need them. AHIMA 2019 provided me a view of the opportunities — opportunities founded in advances in health information management, technology, and digital health. And the future is full of possibilities.
3. The growing area of consumer-driven health can both improve the patient experience and increase consumer access to their health information
It is well established that health care consumers are looking for digital information and digital providers. The Apple Health App and My Chart have been piloted with great success at a large health care center in the US. From this pilot, we learned that there are many benefits for patients who have electronic access to their health information. These benefits include better communication between patients and providers, as well as enabling family members to more easily take part in the care and management of their loved ones.
4. HIM professionals work in many roles across the continuum of care, including long term care
HIMs working in long term care face unique challenges, as this presenter related to us when she described ‘working where your patients live.’ In her work setting, a skilled-nursing facility, it would not be unusual to have to perform some non-HIM tasks on occasion. She also shared that the HIM role in this context is not well understood by other HIMs or, in fact, by health care service payers. She stressed the need for stronger regulatory support for the role of HIMs working in this setting and for CDI, information governance, help with privacy oversight, and ROI support.
5. There are a vast number of health care roles that are tailor-made for HIM professionals
HIM professionals work across the continuum of care in many diverse roles. This is due to the ever-changing nature of the health care system, advances in technology, and the move toward consumer-driven health. Leaders in the field emphasized the need to expand skillsets and to have a clear picture of where we — as individuals, organizations, or, for that matter, a profession — are headed. Because the system can transform quickly, being adaptable and ready for change smooths the way forward.As mentioned earlier, I work for a health-related charitable organization. One of our goals is to improve the lives of those with lung disease in Ontario. In doing so, we seek to understand and improve their health care experience. We strive to partner with health care professionals and organizations to build capacity in the system to care for these individuals by making digital health easy for them and ensuring that the health care services they need are available when and where they need them. AHIMA 2019 provided me a view of the opportunities — opportunities founded in advances in health information management, technology, and digital health. And the future is full of possibilities.