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AHIMA Impressions
By Lee DeOrio

Another year, another AHIMA conference in the books. Here are a few observations from the recently concluded get-together in picturesque Salt Lake City.

• What does every coding manager desire this holiday season? Conscientious doctors who document with zeal. Nearly every discussion that involved ICD-10, audits, compliance, data mining, and so on ended with audience members telling the speaker that there’s not a single strategy or technology available that is worth its weight in coding manuals unless there is proper documentation.

• Don’t look now but 2015 marks the arrival of ICD-11. It took the United States 23 years to adopt ICD-10 following its introduction in 1990, so who knows how long it will take its heir apparent to hit these shores.

• If the industry doesn’t agree on standards and standardized terminologies, it could very well be headed toward an “e-Tower of Babel,” according to T. B. Ustun, team coordinator of classification, terminologies, and standards at the World Health Organization, who entertained a general session with his charming misaligned metaphors and sly pokes at American culture.

• Education sessions devoted to transcription were few and far between. The one I did find had few fannies in the seats. Sadly for medical transcriptionists, it could be a sign of the times.

• Word was that the final rules regarding HIPAA changes under the HITECH Act and accounting of disclosures will be announced sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas or “heads will roll.” In a talk on patient access, the AHIMA’s Lou Ann Wiedemann raised a few eyebrows when she relayed a story from Sue McAndrew, deputy director for health information privacy at the Office for Civil Rights, who said she gets daily calls asking her when the HIPAA rule goes final. That is, the original HIPAA rule, circa 1996. Yikes.

• Want to help your organization prevent privacy violations? Become a wanderer. That’s a suggestion from Mary Poulson, regional director of compliance at Mednax Services, who said HIM staff should make time to periodically walk around the hospital observing and “digging,” as in rifling through wastebaskets to see whether protected health information has been improperly discarded.

• With several major changes—most notably ICD-10—around the corner, coders appear to be placing a renewed emphasis on education. Several I spoke with announced their intentions to take classes or are in the process of doing so.