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AHIMA Summit a Rousing Success
By Sandra Nunn, MA, RHIA, CHP

AHIMA successfully transitioned the former legal health record meeting that it sponsored for several years to one more focused on the integrity of health data and information and how that integrity serves as the foundation for safer, better cost-effective and compliant healthcare. This meeting, held in early November, exceeded all expectations, giving a rich choice of session options to the attendees and an amazing leading speaker on the opening day.

The meeting opened with general sessions featuring Linda Kloss, RHIA, CAE, former AHIMA CEO, and Lorraine Fernandes, RHIA, of IBM, who reviewed the healthcare industry’s growing alarm over the volume of data (ie, “big data”) and the need to develop a skilled workforce and sophisticated tools to harness the power of these data prior to being buried in them.

However, the person who galvanized the audience and made healthcare data a force to be reckoned with was Grace Terrell, MD, MMM, FACP, FACPE, a physician from North Carolina who talked about a patient named Jimmy. She profiled Jimmy from his youthful days manufacturing furniture into the then-booming North Carolina furniture industry, since outsourced to China. She employed data to guide the audience through the deterioration of Jimmy’s healthcare from a young, healthy man to one hampered by diabetes and unemployment but still clinging to any work he can find to sustain his disabled spouse.

As CEO of Cornerstone Healthcare, a 350-physician group, she illuminated the path of data-driven population healthcare in which her group has invested its future and succeeded in making believers of the audience in regard to the power to deliver compassionate healthcare based on informed decision making. Without the ability to share high-integrity healthcare data among all the players in communities, the Jimmys of the future will be doomed.

Several subsequent presentations built on Terrell’s focus on high data integrity to ensure better healthcare. These presenters used two words repeatedly: analytics and analysis. Cassi Birnbaum, MS, RHIA, CPHQ, and Nicholas Holmes, MD, MBA, pointed to a common concern in most healthcare organizations: Poor provider documentation in EHRs may mean a patient’s “story” is lost or degraded.

Christopher Spring, a vice president of health information technology and solutions at M*Modal, reinforced the theme of the patient’s story with a demonstration of how clinical content management can “aggregate the patient story” (ie, gain data from unstructured content that can be subjected to analysis).

Brenda Bell, RHIA, director of health record integrity at Emory Healthcare, joined Kathy Hartman, RN, MSN, CNS, senior director of HIM at the Cleveland Clinic Health System, to provide concrete examples of how analysis of high-integrity data can impact patient safety, such as confirming hospital-acquired conditions prior to billing and improving understanding of the mortality index and “its importance in the healthcare benchmarking scheme.”

Moving higher up the analytics scale, Yair Rajwan, DSc, PFNLM, managing partner and director of analytics visualization research and development at Visual Science Informatics, LLC, and Tanuj Gilja, practice leader in healthcare for Genpact, gave advanced presentations displaying science-driven process improvements based on the “treasure trove” of data needing only the right analytical software, the visual tools to display them, and the trained workforce to employ the data to make patients safer and healthier.

Physicians were not left out. Andres Jimenez, MD, CEO of ImplementHIT, presented case studies demonstrating how training providers in data-driven best practices “minimized out-of-clinic time, reduced lost revenue, and demonstrated impacts on patient quality.”

In light of President Obama’s reelection, and therefore the continuation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states are scrambling to decide whether they will participate in health information exchanges (HIEs) as outlined in the legislation. It will be difficult to participate meaningfully in these exchanges without the ability to adhere to data standards and ensure high-integrity data from within the healthcare organization. The following four presentations dwelt on the emerging importance of HIEs:

• Beth Haenke Just, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA; Mary Ann Leach, CHCIO, vice president and chief information officer of Children’s Hospital of Colorado; and Lisa Fink, MBA, RHIA, CPHQ, senior HIM consultant of Care Communications, highlighted the role of high-integrity data around patient identity management to facilitate participation in HIEs and the use of cloud technology.

• Kathy Kenyon, JD, senior policy analyst for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and Joan Ash, PhD, MLS, MS, MBA, a professor and vice chair of the department of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, discussed the risks of patient safety if organizations cannot succeed in developing high-quality data and facilely exchange it with other organizations.

• Elaine King, MHS, RHIA, CHP, CHDA, FAHIMA, and Stephen Ross, MD, of Health Language, Inc, reviewed the role of natural language processing in facilitating the exchange of unstructured content (eg, transcribed reports) through semantic interoperability.

• Deborah Kohn, MPH, RHIA, FACHE, CPHIMS, principal of Dak Systems Consulting, tied together the above three presentations through a discussion of the central role social media will play in the future of HIE, which will be more and more in the hands of the patients.

Two other presentations offered the basic concepts healthcare must master to participate in any type of HIE, internally or externally:

• My own presentation provided a foundation for information governance, the structure required to achieve sound data, and the infrastructure needed to support exchange. Without governance, the goals of the preceding presentations are unachievable.

• Mary Stanfill, MBI, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, FAHIMA, vice president of HIM consulting services from United Audit Systems, Inc, also went into the basics of good HIM data practices, focusing on the impact of ICD-10-CM.

Completing this exhaustive workshop, AHIMA harkened back to the legal origins of this meeting targeted at advanced information management professionals, highlighting presentations reflecting the need to keep in mind the privacy and security considerations necessary when patient information becomes the currency of healthcare interaction.

Lending the weight of her presence to this meeting, e-discovery expert Shira Scheindlin, JD, a US district judge for the Southern District of New York, brought the focus once again to the patient and the importance of safeguarding the health information of all patients, including Jimmy and his health story.

This summit was an auspicious start to AHIMA’s journey toward being the pivotal professional society responsible for and knowledgeable about the governance and management of health information.

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