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Health IT Revolution - Pt. 4

Current "Health IT Revolution" Drastically Changes HIM in the Near Future (Part IV)
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Today's HIM education models must change now to keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape of tomorrow's HIM field.
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By Chris Dimick

Some Functions Obsolete

The broad roles in HIM—the manager, the consultant, the educator—will still remain in 2025, Brodnik says.

But while it isn't expected that many current HIM professional roles will become obsolete, certain HIM functions will be rendered obsolete by technology.
For example, the EHR has made the function of physically filing paper records—or the need for file clerks—obsolete. Patient portals and an expansion of electronic information exchange could make release of information clerks obsolete or at least alter their role. By the year 2025, technology will have impacted many more HIM roles, causing certain functions to be unnecessary, Haugen says.

Expected advancements in computer-assisted coding and voice translation software will drastically change coding and transcription by 2025. This doesn't mean the elimination of HIM jobs altogether, just the modification of job duties.

File clerks could transition to data integrity analysts, something Haugen saw firsthand while recently serving as the HIM director at Denver Health after the facility implemented an EHR.
The function of typing out voice recordings or manually assigning codes will become mostly obsolete, but not the coding or transcription role itself, Kloss says. The roles will advance to a specialist's level.

"I don't think there will be somebody sitting at a desk, reviewing a chart and writing a code down (in 2025)," Kloss says. "What it (technology) does is raises the bar in terms of (coder) competency."

Coders and transcriptionists will transition to auditors of computer-generated codes and voice-translated files, responsible for testing and maintaining systems and solving complicated issues that the technology can't handle.
High school educated clerical staff might see their job roles adapt into positions that require closer use of electronic data and a higher level of education and information literacy, Brodnik says.
"Last year's graduates had titles like application coordinator, support analyst, clinical documentation improvement specialists… that is so different from the former medical record clerk, medical record director type of roles," says Brodnik of recent graduates from the Ohio State University HIM program.

Other Roles Blossom

While some HIM functions will become obsolete in 2025, others will blossom. EHRs have given healthcare staff the ability to manipulate and use data in previously unimaginable ways. But the EHR is also creating more data integrity issues due to its free-flowing, remotely accessed, and sprawling use of patient information.

Data quality management and data analytic roles are expected to greatly grow in the coming years, offering HIM professionals the opportunity to work intimately with the electronic data for the betterment of patient care and improved financial processes, Brodnik says.

As more electronic systems are integrated into a facility, the role of integrating data from disparate systems will grow and call more HIM professionals to the role, Haugen says. As health information exchanges develop over the next decade, HIM professionals will likely hold roles that ensure information exchange is conducted securely and privately, that duplicate medical records are merged, and that exchanged records are best integrated into individual facility systems—to name just a few responsibilities.

"I see whole divisions within HIM related to data analysis and data integrity," Haugen says.

Another potential new role for HIM professionals is that of patient advocate. Responsible for working with patients to help them access, locate, and understand their electronic health records, the patient advocate position is well suited for future release of information specialists who have seen some of their job functions replaced by automation, Hicks says.

"So the release of information function doesn't go away, it morphs," Hicks says. "Release of information (specialists) move from the front end to the back end of the process."

HIM professionals need to work more closely with information process by 2025, taking roles that reorganize and reengineer workflow, Hicks says. EHR training, implementation, and use specialists are also likely job roles HIM professionals will possess in 2025, Haugen says. As technology advances, specialists will be needed to help facilities implement and get the most out of new information systems.

"People need to understand the data and the information content in order to do a good job with analytics," Kloss says. "All of these roles are adaptations of traditional HIM."

Embrace the Revolution

As much as the health information technology revolution has and will change the HIM profession, it can never replace HIM fundamentals. Policy surrounding health IT has also yet to be burned onto the healthcare industry's hard drive. HIM experts say HIM professionals should pick up the mouse and help design that policy.

"We have gotten very excited that technology is going to solve problems, but we always know that technology works best when policy leads it," Kloss says. "So we are playing this catch-up now, I believe, in trying to get the policy framework more robust, because in some ways the technology is out ahead of the policy framework."

Part of HIM's responsibility is to help guide policy and ensure it catches up to the rapid adoption of technology.

Change can be scary, but it is necessary for HIM to evolve with both technology and healthcare practices. In some ways, the decentralization of the HIM department in the near future could be the best way to ensure HIM fundamentals are recognized and promoted by healthcare leaders, Brodnik says. Recent HIM graduates are landing jobs in areas Brodnik never would have imagined 10 years ago. This is a testament to the need for HIM skills and the future employability of HIM professionals.

"The concept of health information management is expanding and evolving," she says. "It knows no boundaries, it doesn't have four walls anymore, necessarily, which is the way we used to think of it."

Any established revolution must start with grassroots participants. HIM stands on the brink of great change, and it is up to the HIM professionals to march the profession forward into the opportunities of 2025 and beyond.

"The industry is in a massive change," Hicks says. "I definitely think we are at yet another crossroads, and I would really want to challenge the profession to make the necessary changes."

Chris Dimick (chris.dimick@ahima.org) is editor-in-chief of the Journal of AHIMA.
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Article citation:
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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