By Lisa A. Eramo
Today’s electronic health records (EHRs) allow providers to collect, retrieve, and report various types of health data. However, it is the health information management (HIM) professional’s responsibility to ensure that the data is accurate and complete. HIM and health information technology skills are critical.
“Some of the core competencies of HIM directly relate to data analysis,” Gloryanne Bryant, RHIA, CCS, CDIP, CCDS, an HIM consultant based in Fremont, Calif., told the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Her comments were published in an article titled “Healthcare’s Data Revolution: How Data is Changing the Industry and Reshaping HIM’s Roles.” She went on to say, “Understanding what the data is telling you is key to the HIM role.”
Information governance and stewardship are key components of AHIMA’s core model. This model states that HIM professionals must possess knowledge in these primary areas:
- Health data capture and maintenance
- Health information analysis and output
- Health information resource management and innovation
To accomplish this, AHIMA advocates for an educational response from schools and universities to prepare today’s graduates for careers that revolve around data. In an article titled “Teaching the Future: An Educational Response to the AHIMA Core Model,” various HIM experts said that HIM professionals must be able to “capture and document data; analyze data in a meaningful way for both quality improvement and research; and then implement and control both the content and use of data within the organization.”
As providers continue to demand health information technology systems that can manipulate data in novel ways, HIM professionals must be ready and able to tap into that data and tell the stories behind it.
Data retrieval is an increasingly complex task as EHRs and other new applications continue to churn out huge volumes of data across disparate sites of care. HIM professionals must identify and track all data sources that feed into the enterprise-wide data warehouse. An incomplete data inventory leads to incomplete analyses. They must also be able to migrate and integrate data from diverse internal and external sources.
Data retrieval isn’t just about knowing where data resides. It also requires knowledge of health data attributes, including data definitions, value sets, and other administrative and clinical coded content.
Disaster recovery is also an important component of data retrieval. HIM professionals play a significant role in the development of a formal disaster recovery plan. The HIPAA/HITECH Omnibus Final Rule section 164.308, which took effect on March 26, 2013, requires organizations to develop a contingency plan in the event of an emergency or other occurrence that damages systems containing electronic protected health information. HIM professionals must ensure that this plan includes information about data backup, disaster recovery, emergency mode operations, testing and revision, and applications and data criticality analysis. In addition, The Joint Commission requires healthcare organizations to establish in writing and periodically test a disaster recovery plan.
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Data integrity is the foundation of HIM. Without clean data, any analyses, reimbursement, and clinical decisions can’t possibly be accurate or informed. HIM professionals must ensure that errors within the EHR are corrected and that all source systems include corrections as well. They must also closely monitor the Master Patient Index (MPI), looking for and correcting duplicates and other patient identity errors. As technology (e.g., computerized physician order entry, EHRs, and computer-assisted coding) is implemented, HIM must be at the table to ensure that this technology provides an accurate output of data and that users understand their role in terms of data validation.
HIM professionals can—and should—also engage patients to improve data integrity. “Portals, when integrated with the EHR, give patients access to their own health data. Patients will partner with their health providers to validate their own health information,” Serdar Akin, vice president of Intuit Health, based in Mountain View, Calif., told AHIMA in an article titled “Personal Check: Patients are the New Ally in Data Integrity Management.”
Data analysis and reporting
Data analysis and reporting will only continue to increase as technology allows providers to capture new and critical information. HIM professionals can help identify opportunities for the use of this data to improve business intelligence, clinical care, and decision-making throughout the enterprise.
HIM professionals must be prepared to design requirements, criteria, and metrics to meet requirements for analyses and interpretations. These needs will vary by researcher, clinician, executive, payer, consumer, etc.
When analyzing and reporting data, HIM professionals must also ask these questions:
- From what source(s) was the data obtained?
- Is the data accurate?
- Is the data complete?
- Does the data meet the end user’s need?
To find out more about health information management, health information technology, and how you can gain the vital skills now required to excel in this field, visit the UW Health Information Management and Technology degree page or call 608-800-6762 today. Enrollment advisers are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST, or by appointment.