As the healthcare industry transitions from fee-for-service to value-based care, health information professionals are on the frontlines of these momentous changes helping clinicians leverage technology to achieve better patient outcomes while reducing costs.

The American Health Information Management Association’s mission is to advance data analytics, informatics, and information governance in support of these goals. AHIMA, which held its annual national conference last week in Baltimore, is ramping up its resources, tools, and education/accreditation programs to ensure that the more than 100,000 health information professionals it represents are prepared for this unprecedented healthcare transformation.

Health Data Management sat down with AHIMA’s Lynne Thomas Gordon (Chief Executive Officer), Melissa Martin (President/Chair of the 2016 Board of Directors) and Ann Chenoweth (President Elect/Chair of the 2017 Board of Directors) to discuss the state of the industry and the association’s priorities for the coming year.

HDM: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just recently released its MACRA rule detailing the new Quality Payment Program. What is AHIMA communicating to its members about the 2,400-page rule?

Martin: What we’re working on right now is reviewing the regulations to help them understand the rule.

Gordon: Our Washington, DC office is working on that.

Chenoweth: Step two will be for our members to partner with their medical staff and clinical leadership to understand the regulations and move through this. There’s a lot of physician anxiety around this. You’ve got to understand the technology because it is all integrated.

HDM: On a related topic, AHIMA has really taken a leadership role with regard to getting healthcare organizations to adopt information governance. What is the connection between IG and the industry’s transition to value-based care?

Gordon: Healthcare leaders have to be agile, particularly with all the changes going on in our industry, able to make decisions quickly and accurately. You’ve got to be able to trust the data you’re using to make decisions and that’s through information governance—whether it’s clinical, human resource, revenue cycle, or business data.

Martin: Information governance, of course, is an executive accountability framework that AHIMA has developed. We have HealthRate which is our adoption model—the only adoption model in healthcare for IG. We had pilot sites that vetted it over the past 18 to 24 months and they are blogging about their experiences in order to help AHIMA members understand the return on investment. We also have just released an executive-level video on information governance that we’re going to provide to our members who may still be struggling with how to communicate IG to their executives.

HDM: Where within a healthcare organization should ownership of information governance reside? For instance, is IG a natural fit for a Health Information Management (HIM) director level position?

Gordon: It really depends on the organization. But, we see the ultimate IG owner as being in the C-suite because it needs to be an enterprise approach. No matter what, HIM will be the wind beneath their wings, if they’re not leading it themselves.

HDM: Besides information governance, what are AHIMA’s other priorities over the next year?

Martin: Informatics is top on our list. We’ve embedded that in our strategy. When the AHIMA Board evaluated the strategy and discussed what our priorities were going to be, informatics was at the very top and information governance was right behind it. Getting our members up to speed on informatics is a particular focus area. If you’re doing clinical documentation improvement, risk modeling and quality monitoring, then you are on your way to an informatics role. With the importance of quality, every CDI group is involved in that process as well as coders who are involved in doing quality monitoring—it is part of what we do.

HDM: Here at AHIMA’s 2016 conference in Baltimore you announced the introduction of a new credential in early 2017 for eligible professionals in the field of health informatics. Can you tell me a little about that?

Gordon: We have rolled out our beta test for the informatics credential. Already, 400 people have said they want to take the beta test and then we will roll it out officially in January.

Martin: The infrastructure and the foundation for informatics are standards and interoperability.

Gordon: We’re doing a lot of work with standards. We are proud to serve as the ANSI-delegated secretariat to ISO/Technical Committee 215-Heath Informatics and as administrator of the United States Technical Advisory Group (US TAG), the delegation representing the U.S. to ISO/TC215.

HDM: Clinical documentation improvement (CDI) was mentioned. That seems like a growing area. Is that the case?

Chenoweth: Where we’re seeing huge growth is moving CDI initiatives outside of the acute care space to across the healthcare continuum. We can’t just look at the acute care world. There are tremendous opportunities for AHIMA and our members to leverage CDI in outpatient and the physician practices. It’s such an exciting space to be in right now.

HDM: AHIMA also actively helped its membership prepare for the ICD-10 transition that went into effect a little more than a year ago. By all accounts, the code switchover went pretty well.

Gordon: Pretty well? It was amazing!

HDM: Sure, with all the delays in the ICD-10 deadline, organizations had additional time to prepare. And, starting October 1, 2016, there are some new coding requirements that went into effect. Can you tell us how AHIMA is helping its members implement those requirements?

Martin: It’s actually gone quite smoothly. From AHIMA’s perspective, we continue to provide boot camps where necessary upon request and we of course have a whole host of publications that we provide. We still use Code-Check which is an AHIMA service that can help coding staff answer tough ICD-10 questions. We also worked on a brief productivity and quality study and we saw a decrease in both but not by much. Coding is part of our core infrastructure and a lot of our members are coders. We’re still selling lots of products and services.

Chenoweth: Not only is AHIMA supporting our members through available resources and training but we’re a leader in ensuring that the healthcare industry is ready. Through our leadership with the ICD-10 Coalition, a multi-stakeholder partnership, we’re all working on this together. From an industry perspective, another ICD-10 deadline came and went on October 1, 2016, without a hiccup.

Gordon: ICD-11 is slated for 2018 (when it will be presented to the World Health Assembly for endorsement).

HDM: That is frightening and probably a lot sooner than people think.

Gordon: But, it will take us 10 years to clinically modify it for the United States and go through the whole process again.

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