Opinion: What HIM professionals are thinking about the impact of the pandemic on the profession

Opinion: What HIM professionals are thinking about the impact of the pandemic on the profession

Contributor: Christina Francke, CHIM

Woman doctor working in office with laptop computer; wearing face mask

In June 2021, we asked a small group of HIM professionals to respond to a survey regarding the impact of the pandemic on their careers, the field of health information management, and their future plans.

Their responses showed a resilient workforce that continues to thrive despite the challenges of the times. It also showed the importance of community, professional development and work-life balance.

What do you find is or has been the biggest challenge as an HIM professional since the WHO called COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020?

While one respondent had few challenges, others found it difficult to keep up with changing data guidelines and technological complexities. For some, the challenges were province-based. In Yukon, as services were revamped after the lockdown, Lindsey Page, acting occupational health and safety quality assurance coordinator at Yukon Hospitals, saw the “severity of the pandemic” as members of the community “were not seeking medical care and elective surgeries were being postponed.” While in BC, for Rene Rai, coding coordinator at Vancouver Coastal Health, the difficulty was in creating “a calm and productive working environment under … stressful circumstances,” while ensuring provincial safety protocols were in effect.

How do you think the field of HIM has changed since the announcement of COVID-19 as a pandemic?

Jennifer McMillan, the provincial coordinator of BC Trauma Registry, believed that there is “a heightened awareness of the power and importance of health data and thereby the value of the HIM field.” Tiffany Pan, the health information administrator, agreed, saying that “there is [a] newfound recognition of health information, but also scrutiny into the data.” However, change was felt in other ways. Citing the normalcy of virtual clinic visits, Lindsey believed that “many things have greatly improved for patients seeking care,” while Rene said that remote work had “allowed HIM Professionals more flexibility and a better work/life balance.” Suman Singh, lymphoma database manager at the Provincial Health Services Authority, shared a similar view: “I think that we are all finding ways to achieve all possible goals no matter what obstacle lies ahead of us.”

As some public health measures are gradually lifted, what are you most looking forward to doing?

Almost all wanted to spend time reconnecting with their families, but Jennifer’s response gives us food for thought as we seek human connection and adventure despite ongoing movement restrictions: “I’m looking forward to discovering my own backyard. Often we forget that we don’t have to travel to have a getaway, and that we can have a getaway close to home.”

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