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Current "Health IT Revolution" Drastically Changes HIM in the Near Future (Part II)
Today's HIM education models must change now to keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape of tomorrow's HIM field.
By Chris Dimick
Traditional HIM Department Revamped
The traditional HIM department of an HIM director managing medical record systems and staff including HIM professionals, privacy officers, coding staff, and release of information, could drastically change in the next decade, according to Linda Kloss, RHIA, CAE, FAHIMA, president of Kloss Strategic Advisors, based in Chicago, and author of the recent paper "Health Information Management in 2016."
Sponsored by Precyse's HIM Innovation Community, the paper originally intended to examine what the HIM department would look like in 2016. But that mission eventually shifted into the broader question of just what the HIM professional's role will look like in the near future, Kloss says.
"As we moved along it was quite clear that we needed to rephrase that (objective) because we didn't believe that an (HIM) department as we've known it over the last number of decades would look as it traditionally has," Kloss says. "We started with the goal of looking at the department and ended up really broadening that to look at what health information management will become."
One conclusion of the paper: the current HIM department structure will become antiquated by 2016 as electronic information is used in different ways across healthcare organizations.
Kloss' paper suggests that HIM will become decentralized over time, with HIM professionals shifting from overseeing a formal department to managing different HIM knowledge workers throughout the organization. HIM will separate based on its specialties, with HIM specialists in clinical data management, privacy/security, data analysis, release of information, etc., embedded in several different departments.
"We need to prepare HIM specialists to work in essentially embedded roles throughout the organization," she says.
Don't Mourn the Department
The breakup of the traditional HIM department should not be mourned, notes Mary Beth Haugen, MS, RHIA, president of Haugen Consulting Group, an HIM consulting firm. The HIM department model is already growing outdated due to current technology changes, a trend that will solidify by 2025, she says.
HIM professionals need more project management, statistician, and data analyst influences in order to work with electronic data and better adapt essential HIM functions to the future healthcare environment, Haugen says.
"If we stay in that traditional view I think we are going to limit ourselves and our future potential," Haugen says.
This decentralization has already begun in some facilities, according to Melanie Brodnik, PhD, RHIA, an associate professor and director of the HIM program at Ohio State University. Brodnik says the industry's transition to the EHR has had the greatest impact on HIM during her 40-year career as an HIM professional and educator. The HIM department has begun to "transition" and will continue to do so over the next several years, Brodnik says.
Students who graduate from Ohio State University's HIM program have taken specialist and management jobs within various healthcare departments, including IT, compliance, revenue cycle, and even the emergency department.
Brodnik has also seen graduates of her program land unique job roles like business systems analyst, financial data analyst, and infrastructure consultant—roles that were rare or didn't exist five years ago but are likely to grow in the coming years.
"I think we are going to see the functional (HIM) areas either become independent areas or get moved under other areas in a facility, but that is not to say that the HIM professional won't be the individuals who are the leaders of those areas," Brodnik says.
HIM could be headed for the C-suite. Corporate HIM directors—an emerging role that is expected to grow by 2025—are beginning to form within integrated health systems with multiple hospitals. These corporate HIM directors manage a set of functions being carried out by HIM professionals within various hospital departments, rather than managing HIM within the traditional HIM department structure.
Chris Dimick (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor-in-chief of the Journal of AHIMA.
Dimick, Chris. "Health 2025 Information Management: Current “Health IT Revolution” Drastically Changes HIM in The Near Future." Journal of AHIMA 83, no.8 (August 2012): 24-31.
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