A recent blog entry on Health Data Management's Web site that questioned whether leaders of the American Health Information Management Association understood the educational needs of their members doesn't paint an accurate picture of the association's efforts, says AHIMA CEO Alan Dowling.

HDM reporter Joe Goedert based his observations on conversations with AHIMA leaders or their speeches at the group's annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Leaders gave little weight to educational issues while rank-and-file members worry a great deal about the need for more education on such issues as meaningful use, ICD-10, and new technologies such as natural language processing and computer-assisted coding. Goedert, in particular, took Dowling to task for a speech he viewed as nothing more than cheerleading.

But that's not a fair portrayal, Dowling contends. He became CEO in January and has often traveled to meet members, but the conference was his first chance to talk to them en masse. "My first concern is to start rallying the membership," he says. The speech to members, he adds, was an effort to "start out on a positive foot" with an emphasis on generating and marshalling the energy of the organization.

At AHIMA, the House of Delegates, not the board or CEO, is the primary decision maker for initiatives the association will tackle and the directions it will move toward, Dowling explains. The task of the CEO is to energize and motivate members to act.

Goedert also took issue with comments in Dowling's speech that he interpreted as members being on their own to educate themselves.

That's not so--AHIMA is there to help, Dowling says, but the membership has to understand and accept that they need more education. "The message is no one can do this for you," he says. "Everyone must commit to doing their part. It does take the will of the individual to progress."

AHIMA offers a series of workshops and online learning programs, says Claire Dixon-Lee, former AHIMA vice president of education and now executive director at the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. For instance, more than 1,000 members during the past two years have going through the ICD-10 Academy, an intensive three-day workshop.

Further, association leaders understand their members rapidly are moving into medical informatics, Dowling asserts. He recently began exploring a partnership with the American Medical Informatics Association to assist AHIMA members in understanding the breadth of informatics, and how to create an environment where their knowledge and skills come together.

"We're trying to affect a constructive change," Dowling says. "I'm learning about the organization, how it works, and its collective strengths. We all have to change."


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