AHIMACon vs. Comic-Con: We All Have a Role to Play

October 10th, 2014 / By Jill Devrick

Last week I checked in on Facebook from the AHIMA convention in San Diego. My brother, who attends San Diego Comic-Con religiously every year, decided to weigh in:

Brother: My San Diego convention is superior to your San Diego convention.

Me: My convention is more conventional than your convention.

Brother: I expect you’ll have better Cosplay, though.

Me: Lots of Clark Kent and Lois Lane types.

It turns out this exchange fit perfectly with the vibe at #AHIMACon14 over the following three days. I arrived at the Monday general session in time to see and hear several inspirational messages about how innovation and, as AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon put it, “embracing reinvention,” are the keys to success in health information management.

This was my fourth year in a row presenting at the AHIMA conference. Over the past few years, the participants seemed more uncertain and inquisitive about the future of health information management, with a “wait and see” attitude about how the healthcare industry is evolving and predicting what might happen in the future. This time around, however, the overall feel of the conference was active and empowering, with many presentations focused on “taking stock, facing forward, digging in, and staking claim to our future,” as stated by Gordon in her opening address.

Indeed, it is clear that AHIMA is poised to take ownership and lead the way towards information governance in the healthcare industry. Gone are the days of lamenting how technology and regulations are changing traditional roles and workflows. The entire AHIMA conference program was geared towards assuring HIM professionals that they are equipped to face the challenges of information governance, but they need to commit to continuing education and flexibility so they can continue to adapt to ongoing change while using their HIM expertise well into the future. AHIMA president Angela Kennedy encouraged attendees to “Dream big, believe, and lead.”

One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a long-time “techie” in the healthcare industry is that advancing technology is exciting, but scary and humbling. It doesn’t matter how comfortable I am with our past and current platforms, because there’s always something new in the hopper to challenge me and potentially catch me off guard. It takes the experience of implementing a few new products or releases to realize that new and scary is just temporary if we are willing to learn and take some risks along the way. Eventually, the new and scary become established as the norm, just in time for the next big thing to come along.

I am glad to see the HIM industry adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I expect to see strong leadership from AHIMA and other professional associations in the healthcare industry in the coming year as the ICD-10 implementation date gets closer, interoperability becomes an even greater focus for the ONC and health IT, and much more. AHIMA is off to a great start by releasing their “Information Governance Principles for Healthcare” at the conference to help HIM professionals focus their efforts on building policies and processes that ensure healthcare information is timely, complete, accurate, and secure. I look forward to seeing their five-level information governance maturity model when it is released later this year.

Patty Thierry Sheridan, AHIMA past-president, highlighted the value of HIM leadership in an interview she gave with Journal of AHIMA before the conference, “HIM leadership is the pathway to ensuring that the HIM profession survives, thrives, and contributes to the greater good. Healthcare organizations need HIM leadership to light a path to the quality health information needed to achieve better healthcare at lower cost.”

“Survives, thrives, and contributes to the greater good.” In my opinion, there were as many heroes and potential heroes at AHIMACon as there were at Comic-Con, and that’s how it should be. No spandex necessary.

Jill Devrick, Product Solutions Advisor with 3M Health Information Systems, is Immediate Past President of the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).