Health information management professionals increasingly are centralizing medical records processing, coding, and clinical documentation functions, among others, across the health system enterprise.
This is an emerging trend that the American Health Information Management Association found following in-depth interviews with 20 HIM directors. Instead of having every hospital and practice employing one or more persons to handle HIM duties, the task is being done remotely at a central location, says Rita Bowen, privacy officer at AHIMA. “Some HIM departments now aren’t even in the hospital.”
Bowen estimates that 20 percent of HIM work now is off-campus, handling functions not just for hospitals, but for laboratories, physician practices and other ancillary providers affiliated with a health system. Some other hospitals that retain the HIM department are now centralizing the work being done across an enterprise. This brings efficiency of staff and resources while increasing overall HIM knowledge across the organization, says Dawn Crump, vice president of audit management at AHIMA.
The downside of centralized arrangements can be patient confusion, as they go to the hospital to get copies of their medical records and then have to go elsewhere to actually pick them up, Bowen says. Further, some HIM professionals in private practices may not like having to give up particular tasks until they learn that passing some duties to a central location gives them more time to focus on other issues.
Another emerging trend being identified, Bowen says, is health insurers becoming advocates for patients by looking at data over time for trends to make sure providers are ensuring that their patients are getting wellness checks at appropriate intervals, so that cholesterol levels or glucose levels, among other factors, remain in control. Consolidated HIM, which also standardizes HIM processes to improve accuracy of information—including patient-generated information—can help support improved patient monitoring by giving a better view of the continuum of care.
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