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AHIMA Works to Build Tomorrow's Leaders
By Sandra Nunn, MA, RHIA, CHP

When AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, told attendees at the organization's July Leadership Symposium that HIM professionals will "become dinosaurs" if changes aren't made, the industry took notice.

Gordon urged HIM leaders to embrace the five facets of AHIMA's strategic direction and make them their own. Pushing information governance (IG) to the forefront, she touted the enormous amount of work and financial investment AHIMA has placed in this area, including efforts to help HIM professionals embrace the concept as a driving force in achieving patient safety.

Gordon addressed the second facet, informatics, in layman's terms. Rather than discussing data and information, she spoke about how an HIM professional might consider the use of technology to make his or her work easier. Gordon was unequivocal in her directive that members "must be better at technology" in order to understand the HIT standards that make health information exchange possible. She illustrated how semantic, technical, and process components make collaboration among diverse health care providers possible.

Innovation, the third component in AHIMA's grand design, seemed more elusive for the audience. Gordon mentioned AHIMA's 26 new book titles, new virtual exams, updates to the Virtual Lab, and ICD-10 support (Crack the Code meetings). However, its alliance with the International Federation of Health Information Management Association carries little weight for the ordinary HIM practitioner. Future innovation efforts include creating an IG credential, developing curriculum competency for a master's degree in informatics, and establishing multiple short certificate programs on topics such as release of information.

Gordon's comments on leadership, the fourth facet, focused on apprenticeship development once HIM students have met formal education requirements. She called on members to embrace apprenticeship efforts and to encourage both staff and students to look into scholarship offerings available through AHIMA and other organizations.

Lastly, Gordon discussed the public good, encouraging members to look for the pain points that their patients and their families are experiencing. AHIMA is a partner in the Get My Health Data initiative and working on a myHealthID campaign to support patient access to health information. In addition, the organization has invested a substantial amount of work in support of patient matching efforts and continues to lobby for reasonable release of information fees.

From the Field
Sally Beahan, MHA, RHIA, director of HIM strategic planning and projects at the University of Washington Medical Center, discussed how the HIM department was the starting point for the organization's IG initiative. HIM brainstormed what current projects and initiatives could be leveraged in an IG effort, including the construction of a retention schedule, the inventory of legacy systems, working on metadata management, and differentiating between the legal health record and the designated record set.

Jaime James, MHA, RHIA, HIM director at Banner Health, told a different IG story, spotlighting how a large health system adopted a top-down IG approach with upper leadership playing a role. Banner also assessed existing initiatives to determine how to break IG into "digestible portions." The health system is currently in an assessment mode and could not answer all the questions on the HealthRate tool. AHIMA is exploring an abbreviated tool called PulseRate as an introductory method for organizations unable or unwilling to put huge resources into IG immediately. Banner did have a score of 3.0 with markers under each area to indicate competencies and areas still requiring further work.

Tina Esposito, MBA, RHIA, vice president of the center for health information services at Advocate Health Care, and Shawn Wells, BS, RHIT, CHDA, HIM data integrity manager at University of Utah Health Care, discussed the emergence of analytics and informatics in the HIM world. Esposito began with two people in her department and used typical metrics such as patient satisfaction measures. Part of her challenge was dealing with a plethora of EHR systems featuring multiple vendors and no systemic enterprise master patient index. She hopes to create an environment for "advanced analytics for use in population health," taking a step in that direction by hiring a data scientist and searching for staff who are "computer savvy, analytics savvy, and business savvy."

Wells talked extensively about the challenges involved in gaining consistent data from multiple databases, including data warehouse and financial applications, and HIM databases. He described the data warehouse's protective stance and the need to build relationships with all those who manage data that may be used to create meaningful information for decision-makers. He heartily endorsed concurrent coding as a tool to ensure quality data.

Breakout Sessions
Breakout sessions to discuss AHIMA's strategies as outlined by Gordon allowed state leaders to provide feedback on the national leadership's strategic direction. Events were held in the following domains:

• HIM Awareness Campaign;

• Financial Planning 101;

• Architectural Designs to Build and Improve Your Meetings; and

• State Advocacy.

The meeting design and improvement session spotlighted the creative support systems that AHIMA plans to offer states to help with the burden of presenting educational offerings at cost-effective rates. AHIMA will use its muscle to help states negotiate with hotels for more reasonable rates and provide other suggestions to enhance attendance.

Renaissance in a Changing Environment
On day two, the Component State Associations audience was treated to a presentation by Mary Byers, CAE, a specialist in providing consulting services to professional associations who explained that, although the business environment is changing rapidly, professional associations tend to move slowly and have difficulty keeping up.

Byers reviewed the following challenges faced by professional associations and proposed solutions that might work even at the state level:

• Time famine. Demands on our time have increased exponentially. Byers suggests associations seek volunteers piecemeal and request they complete only small tasks, a formula she dubbed "micro volunteering."

Byers recommends board members serve fewer than three years. Instead, they should be assigned a task and move on once its accomplished.

• Return on investment. Are members getting their money's worth from their dues? Byers says professional associations should state their value propositions in two sentences or less. In addition, they should list two or three reasons for joining the association and help members work less stressfully, more profitably, and more productively.

• Specialization. Many organizations in similar domains are consolidating.

• Generational differences. Focus on how similarities among members can strengthen the association. For technology education, consider reverse mentoring. Byers says younger members typically enjoy networking opportunities. Is the organization providing enough of those?

• Experiment. Try initiatives that may fail, Byers suggests. Stop worrying about parliamentary procedure, she adds, noting that most associations spend only 4% of their budgets on technology. A technology plan should be in place that includes considerations for updates. Consider creating a portal instead of a website. Look at other websites for ideas. Is yours dated? Navigable? Fun? Ask members how they would like to be contacted, eg, Instagram and Snapchat. Does your organization need a social media strategy? Byers says the website Your Nerdy Best Friend offers plenty of free or low-cost apps.

• Competition from other associations. Keep in mind that members have only so much money for dues and other organizations are seeking ways to lure them to join.

"Great leaders think less about what they have to say and more about what they need to ask," says Byers, who recommends professional associations build on their strengths, concentrate resources, and eliminate failed initiatives.

Final Breakout Sessions
The HIM Reimagined session stressed the need for HIM professionals to move on to more advanced degrees and credentials, many of which are offered by AHIMA.

AHIMA packed a lot of material and a sense of urgency into this year's Leadership Conference. The organization, which is well aware of the challenges being faced by current and future members, is making every effort to pave the path to future employment.

— Sandra Nunn, MA, RHIA, CHP, is a contributing editor at For The Record and principal of KAMC Consulting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.