My Wish List for HIMSS15: Bring Documentation into the Health IT Conversation

April 10, 2015 / By Jill Devrick

For the past two years, I have been fortunate to attend the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in both New Orleans and Orlando. HIMSS puts on a massive event for about 38,000 people, so it’s definitely a great place to learn and network around the newest technologies, trends, and solutions in healthcare information technology. HIMSS15 kicks off in Chicago on April 12, and although I am unable to attend this year, I’ve been thinking about the conversations and ideas I hope will be generated by the organizers, presenters and attendees.

HIMSS has many educational tracks spanning just about every specialization and niche in Health IT. In looking at this year’s offerings, I think the following topic areas are ripe for an introduction to or ongoing conversation about how document creation and content capture is critical to quality of patient care, as well as to successful implementation and use of technology systems.

Career development and workforce diversity: Health IT professionals are in increasing demand, while many healthcare documentation specialists (HDS) are being displaced from traditional transcription roles due to outsourcing, speech recognition technology, and EHR use. I would like to see the Health IT world embrace and provide roles for HDS in data integrity, quality auditing, clinician support, and more.

Consumer health: EHRs and patient portals are making personal health information increasingly available to consumers. I would welcome more discussion about how patients interact with their record and what should happen when errors or concerns with the content are reported by the patient. I believe HDS are well-equipped to provide support to patients concerning the contents of their record, and they can also be part of the solution in figuring out what, where and how it is appropriate to revise information in the record.

EHRs and meaningful use: Meaningful EHR use is intended to improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities. But “meaningful” is not a one-size-fits-all solution. HDS are often perceived as an expense that is less efficient than clinicians creating documentation themselves, but I believe HDS make a meaningful contribution in helping physicians create documentation more efficiently, while also being a valuable second set of eyes in two ways: 1) supporting the physician in ensuring the documentation is accurate, complete, and timely, and 2) adapting the technology (via speech recognition editing, template modifications, etc.) so that it yields better quality and efficiency over time.

Human factors, usability, and design: As a product manager, this topic is a passion for me. When I first started working in software development, the typical approach was for a technology company to design a product based upon their technical perception of how a healthcare organization should work, and then the healthcare organization had to alter their policies and processes to accommodate the software. I am glad that over the past several years this trend has shifted, and now technology companies are the ones doing the adapting to better fit the needs of clinicians and healthcare organizations. I hope we see many cool new products and new versions of existing technologies that enable organizational goals (meaningful use, etc.) and workflow efficiencies without adding stress and unnecessary “hoop jumping” for users.

Improving quality and patient safety outcomes: This topic focuses on how to help healthcare professionals improve clinical outcomes and patient safety. My take: Support them in adopting, learning, and adapting to documentation technologies that fit best in their environment. If the ultimate goal is quality and safety, then the methodology used should be optimal for the clinician. If front-end speech recognition and templates make the most sense, provide comprehensive training, solid templates (built with the assistance of an HDS) and ongoing support for devices and speech recognition profiles. If dictation and transcription/back-end speech recognition makes the most sense, then don’t discount it because it’s “old school.” Sometimes sticking with the classics is the best approach.

IT standards and interoperability: Right now the national discussion is focused on the technical standards for interoperability and how to share patient data and documentation across systems. But what about the standards for how that data and documentation is captured and understood? I have been told that EHRs and other technologies have made the idea of documentation style obsolete, but I don’t buy into that notion. Implementation of interoperability, availability of records to patients, and the use of data and documentation for analytics and decision support will draw increasing attention to issues with consistency and quality in how information is captured. HDS can serve as leaders in working through issues of documentation standards within a specialty department, as well as across departments or across the healthcare industry at large.

Several other educational tracks at HIMSS related to innovation, privacy and security, process improvement, and so on are also intriguing to me, and I wish I could be a fly on the wall in many of the sessions in Chicago next week. I encourage those of you who are attending to soak in as much information as you can, meet as many people as you can, and bring home as many ideas as possible. The HIMSS website claims that, “You can transform Health IT,” and I agree. We all have a part to play in building technologies that transform healthcare for the benefit of patients, clinicians, and our society.

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

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