From The Editor | November 6, 2013

AHIMA 2013 About Much More Than ICD-10

ken congdon

By Ken Congdon

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In a blog post last week, John Lynn, founder of, said “#AHIMACon13 should be called ICD-10 Con.” I can see why John felt this way. ICD-10 was definitely the central topic at the conference — both in the educational sessions and on the exhibit floor. Attendees were hungry for information on how to adequately prepare for the ICD-10 transition, and exhibitors enthusiastically offered up technology solutions geared toward making the process easier on HIM directors, coders, and clinicians. However, in my opinion, AHIMA 2013 was about much more than ICD-10. To me, the event was really all about HIM professionals searching for a new identity.

While much has been written about how physicians have been forced to change in the wake of health IT, little coverage has been dedicated to the impact technology adoption is having on HIM professionals. When you think about it, the role of the HIM professional has historically revolved around the paper record. With the rise of EHR adoption, the roles and responsibilities of HIM professionals are changing drastically, and many HIM employees are having problems adjusting.

It’s about more than just keeping up with the technology learning curve. There actually seems to be a tangible fear among many HIM professionals that their jobs will be replaced by computer software. If HIM practitioners fail to evolve with the times, these fears may be justified. They may become dinosaurs of the healthcare world, doomed to extinction. With this realization, it was clear AHIMA attendees were looking for answers. What role should they play in a healthcare world dominated by IT? What skill sets would they need to acquire or enhance? How can they optimize their value in the healthcare delivery system? Luckily, the AHIMA conference provided the career advice HIM professionals are craving.

AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas provided a HIM career roadmap of sorts during her presentation during the General Session on Monday, October 28. During her speech, she outlined AHIMA’s top five strategic goals — 1) Informatics, 2) Leadership, 3) Information Governance, 4) Innovation, and 5) Public Good.

“Informatics is AHIMA’s number one strategic goal because the importance of transforming patient data into healthcare intelligence has become paramount, and the HIM professional needs to be at the forefront of this process,” said Thomas.

HIM professionals must be familiar and comfortable enough with the technology in use at their healthcare facility to take the information governance expertise that they acquired for paper records and apply it to EHR data.  “HIM needs to be the in-house experts on information governance and the data stewards within a healthcare organization,” says Bonnie Cassidy, senior director of HIM Innovation for Nuance Clintegrity, and former AHIMA president. “They need to be the ones ultimately responsible for ensuring the integrity of the health data contained in the EHR system.”

Cassidy and others also stressed how HIM professionals have a significant role to play when it comes to providing valuable information services to clinicians. For example, Cassidy stated that HIM professionals should position themselves as change management leaders within the healthcare facility and dedicate their efforts to helping physicians adopt and use EHRs effectively. Juergen Fritsch, chief scientist for M*Modal, concurred saying “The role of HIM is changing. Technology is now a much bigger part of that world. However, at its core, HIM is still all about providing services that make a physician’s job easier. By continuing to fill this need, HIM professionals will remain an integral part of healthcare systems.”