The theme of this year’s Kentucky Health Information Management Association (KHIMA) annual conference was, “Cheers--We Want to Go Where Everybody Knows Our Name.” During the conference, they discussed how they want to move the profession to a point when, as new jobs or projects arise, everyone in the health care industry will say, “Hey, we need to get a HIM professional on the team because they already know all about this.” The national and state professional associations are trying their best to educate and prove to health care leaders that they are the “go to” people. However, professional organizations cannot do it alone. The individual HIM professional must become their own leader and advocate. They must academically prepare for the new jobs and be strong enough to step up to the plate at work and scream,” Look at me!!! Stop bypassing HIM! I have valuable knowledge and skills for this new technology era!”
Almost all of the challenges identified at the conference have IT related implications and impacts. I cover the main challenges below. Much of this information wasn’t taken from the conference, but rather from dialogue with the incoming chapter president, Dawn W. Jackson, Program Director, Health Services Administration at Eastern Kentucky University.
1. The health care industry’s transition to electronic health records – The goal of the federal government is to ensure that all health care providers will have fully integrated (interoperable) electronic health records by 2014. Failure to reach this goal will result in decreased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for the health care provider. However, many of those in the health care industry have found the transition to EHRs extremely overwhelming. Here is the difference between electronic medical records or EMRs(the current system in place) and the EHRs:
- EMR (Electronic Medical Record) – an electronic record for one healthcare provider, that cannot send to or receive information from outside entities
- EHR (Electronic Health Record) – an electronic record that can send information to other entities and receive information from the outside as well (This is the future!!)
2. Lack of recognition as health informatics and information management leaders – As a profession, HIM professionals are at a critical crossroads. As stated above, the healthcare “world” is moving to a high tech, electronic environment. The national association says that with this shift there will be numerous jobs (tasks) opening up. Unfortunately, there is a huge problem to consider.
The current HIM professional is not academically prepared (nor possesses equivalent work experience) for these new technology jobs (i.e., database administrator, data analyst, data mining, decision support analyst). However, it’s important to understand that the brand new HIM graduates are academically prepared. Still, most employers want to hire people with work experience, so there is still a large gap. Health care organizations are going to give the jobs to people they think can do them – NOW.
So, there is considerable concern that the new health informatics and information management jobs will be given to IS/IT professionals or even to some nurses and physicians. This is a problem as well because they may not know the technology issues either. The point is that there are massive numbers of HIM professionals who are sitting back and watching this happen. Some are asking, “Why aren’t they (the bosses) asking me to get involved in that project?” or, Why did they give that new job to a nurse? That’s a HIM job.”
3. The Health care industry’s transition to new diagnosis and procedure coding systems – Since the 1970s, the U.S. has been using ICD-9-CM for diagnosis and procedure coding. These codes are submitted to insurance companies to determine the amount of reimbursement a healthcare provider receives. On October 1, 2014, all health care providers will start using ICD-10-CM for diagnosis coding. In addition, hospitals will begin using ICD-10-PCS for procedure coding. These two systems are completely different from the current system in place. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is recognized by the federal government as the nation’s the coding expert. A lot of effort is currently being placed on reeducating all HIM professionals to make this transition in the workplace. It is also worth noting that both the EHR deadline and the ICD-10 deadline come at the exact same time.
4. Creation of alliances within healthcare– Across the nation, huge healthcare alliances are being formed. For instance, in Kentucky they have seen the formation of two large alliances in the past year. The most recent was St. Joseph Healthcare in Lexington (which already owns 7 hospitals) merging with St. Mary’s Healthcare in Louisville (which owns 5 hospitals) to form Kentucky One. When these alliances and mergers occur, some jobs are saved, others are eliminated and some are downgraded to a lower job title. Naturally, this type of restructuring is causing anxiety. In addition, it will also drive enterprise IT system consolidation and integration.
For more information about the profession, visit www.ahima.org