South Florida Hospital News
Monday August 19, 2019
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July 2006 - Volume 3 - Issue 1

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AHIMA - Planning for the future … Today

Since 1928, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has been dedicated to the effective management of personal health information needed to deliver quality health care. With 50,000 members, AHIMA is the premier association of health information (HIM) professionals working in more than 40 different work settings and in 200 job titles. The association is committed to advancing the HIM profession in an increasingly electronic and global environment through leadership in advocacy, education, certification and lifelong learning.

With nearly 80 years of tradition, AHIMA keeps an eye on today’s needs with a focus on the future to improve the flow of healthcare information by:

  • Developing and supporting modern and robust data and documentation standards
  • Advancing best practice in maintaining a legal and electronic health record
  • Advancing the promulgation of electronic health records
  • Preparing members to lead the transition to electronic health records
"Our members literally work everywhere that personal health information is generated or used," says Sandy Fuller, MA, RHIA, Executive Vice President and COO of the Chicago-based AHIMA.

"Our network of members is our strongest asset in advancing new e-HIM practice." And AHIMA certainly addresses and anticipates the growing and changing needs of its members. For example, this year the association has specially designed programs to address the following:

  • Assist the members in leading the transition from paper to electronic HIM practice
  • Provide leadership to the healthcare industry in health information management
  • Deliver support for its formal education network with accreditation, textbooks, reference materials, student membership, and faculty development opportunities including the summer Assembly on Education
  • Deliver support for practicing members across the spectrum of healthcare and HIM practice (Key focus areas this years include EHR implementation workflow analysis in both hospitals and physician office practices)
  • Remain current in both coding and e-HIM topics through audio-seminars on more than 50 topics
  • Provide leadership in computer-assisted coding best practices, including a summit this fall
Fuller explains that the constant flow of education and information are reflective of the ever-changing climate of healthcare delivery and how information is communicated.

"The biggest challenge is the transition itself," she says. "Implementing an electronic health record (EHR) is not an event but a process. And during that process – along with managing change and looking forward – most HIM professionals work with a hybrid record (a combination of electronic and paper). So, while moving toward an EHR, the access and an integrity of that entire record must be safeguarded."

But despite the challenges of transition, Fuller believes the healthcare industry also offers great opportunities to AHIMA and its members.

"The industry is replete with opportunities, and they will continue to grow for some time. As more data is electronically captured, the industry – from each individual user to the large industry stakeholders – will have new abilities to use data to create information."

She adds, "When you multiply that with new types of information -- like individual genome mapping -- the opportunities to have health information improve the quality of health care a re very exciting. The challenges lie in accomplishing this in a way that builds consumer trust, enables users to access meaningful information and improves the efficiency of health care."

This efficiency is needed in both the city and the heartland. AHIMA members in both urban "super-systems" and rural community healthcare facilities reflect specific needs and challenges.

"Our members anecdotally support the research findings that -- with few exceptions – rural medicine is behind in adoption of electronic health records, largely due to funding issues. But electronic health information exchange holds a lot of promise for rural healthcare delivery by bringing expertise closer to the patient’s home and ensuring that, when patients need specialized care in an urban setting, complete information can be communicated between the two healthcare providers."

Large, integrated healthcare delivery systems also offer "e-challenges."

"The large systems have more resources to invest," Fuller says, "but they also have a larger investment to make. The economy of scale that can be leveraged in acquisition and the ability to apply best practices across the enterprise are somewhat reduced by the sheer size of the endeavor. At AHIMA, we are seeing more consolidation of services as EHRs make remote information processing possible."

AHIMA continuously assesses and address the needs of its 50,000 members though ongoing education, research and communication. In addition, the Foundation of Research and Education (FORE) of AHIMA provides financial and intellectual resources to sustain and recognize continuous innovation and advances in health information management for the betterment of the profession, for healthcare delivery, and for the public. FORE reaches its mission by:

  • raising funds to support Foundation initiatives
  • identifying trends that impact health information management
  • defining new directions for the profession
  • guiding and encouraging professional development through research
  • defining and identifying best practice
  • recognizing excellence in the HIM profession
FORE is only one component of the many services AHIMA provides, according to Sandy Fuller.

"Through our Foundation and though our resources and education programs, AHIMA is committed to ensuring the vitality, visibility and viability of the HIM profession."

For more information about AHIMA and its many programs, visit www.ahima.org.
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