This year was my 4th year attending the AHIMA Convention. There was definitely a different vibe this year at AHIMA than has been at previous AHIMA Annual Convention. I still saw the humble and wonderful people that work in the HIM field. I also still saw a passion for the HIM work from many as well. However, there seemed to be an overall feeling from many that they were evaluating the future of HIM and what it means for healthcare, for their organization, and for them personally.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Think about the evolution that’s been happening in the HIM world. First, they got broadsided by $36 billion of stimulus money that slapped EHR systems in their organizations which questioned HIM’s role in this new digital world. Then, last year they got smashed by a few lines in a bill which delayed ICD-10 another year. It’s fair to say that it’s been a tumultuous few years for the HIM profession as they consider their place in the healthcare ecosystem.
While a little bit battered and scarred, at AHIMA I still saw the same passion and love for the work these HIM professionals do. I might add, a work they do with very little recognition outside of places like AHIMA. In fact, when EHR systems started being put in place, I think that many organizations wondered if they’d need their HIM staff in the future. A number of years into the world of EHRs, I think it’s become abundantly clear in every organization that the HIM staff still have extremely important roles in an organization.
While EHR software has certainly changed the nature of the work an HIM professional does, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. We’d all love for the EHR to automate our entire healthcare lives, but it’s just not going to happen. In fact, in many ways, EHR software complicates the work that’s done by HIM staff. Remember that great HIM modules, features, and functions don’t sell more EHR software (more on that in future posts). Sadly, the HIM functions are often an afterthought in EHR development. We’ll see if that catches up with the EHR vendors.
As I’ve dived deeper into the life and work of an HIM professional, I’ve seen how difficult and detailed the job really can be. Not to mention, the negative consequences an organization can experience if they don’t have their HIM house in order. Just think about a few of the top functions: Release of Information, Medical Coding, Security and Compliance. All of these can have a tremendous impact for good or bad on an organization.
What is clear to me is that the HIM professional has moved well beyond managing medical records. If done well, the HIM functions can play a really important part in any healthcare organization. The challenge that many HIM professionals face is adapting to this changing environment. I see a number of real stand out professionals that are doing phenomenal things in their organization and really have an important voice. However, I still see far too many who aren’t adapting and many who quite frankly don’t want to adapt. I think this will come back to bite them in the end.