Distributing the centralized HIM department

nursingBy Seth Johnson

This week, March 26-April 1, 2017, is Health Information Professionals Week in the U.S., brought to you by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The week is designated to recognize and raise awareness of the Health Information Management (HIM) profession across the country.

Creating “disruptive technology” that transforms business processes is a common goal for both hardware and software developers. Healthcare is in a near-constant state of disruption as new technology is continually introduced into patient care and support practices.

While there are certainly benefits to new healthcare technology, the multitude of systems often leaves the Health Information Management (HIM) department with multiple pieces of information in various forms. This presents a challenge as the department strives to maintain the integrity of each patient’s data.

Prior to the early 2000s, when electronic record management software was introduced, access was the most difficult issue with a paper medical record. To access a patient’s record, clinicians or staff had to go to the file storage area of the facility to find the paper record, and then search the paper record for the needed information.

As individual hospitals grew into health systems, the HIM department of each facility began to struggle under the pressure to provide access to clinicians across multiple hospitals within a system. The centralization of HIM became the new disruption in the healthcare industry.

As a result of this movement toward a hybrid medical record, the amount of information added to a medical record by clinicians and medical devices has increased, along with patients’ access to their own data.

With the implementation of electronic health records for meaningful use — and the impending convergence of patient-generated health data — the overwhelming amount of information flowing into a medical record is quickly becoming hard to manage.

As a result, the once-centralized HIM department is reaching back into the hospital to capture data from the many input sources in real time. HIM departments distribute staff on patient care floors to capture information during the patient’s episode of care with mobile work stations. Many use smart multifunction devices with built-in dedicated capture functions across acute care, outpatient and ambulatory facilities. Using this technology in clinical areas frees more workspace in the clinical environment, while allowing access to patient information electronically within moments of capture.

The health information professional is challenged to remain up to date in an environment of constant disruption. Maintaining the integrity of data through information governance practices and new data capture technologies requires those in the HIM field to remain vigilant, educated and ahead of an ever-changing curve.

As part of AHIMA’s Health Information Professionals Week, Lexmark Healthcare proudly recognizes those working behind the record for their important, constant and consistent work. Thank you for your service within the healthcare industry and commitment to ensuring the availability, accuracy, integrity and security of all data.

Seth Johnson, RHIA, is an executive consultant in global healthcare for Lexmark and president of the Tennessee Health Information Management Association.