The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) held its annual convention and exhibit in Los Angeles last week. Beginning with preconvention meetings and symposia, this year’s event delivered a renewed focus on the profession’s stalwart responsibility to protect and govern patient information. Updates for privacy, security, interoperability and information governance were provided. Here is a quick overview of my lessons learned at AHIMACon17.
Privacy and Security Institute
The 11th anniversary of AHIMA’s Privacy and Security Institute didn’t disappoint. Speakers from the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and HITRUST joined privacy and HIM consultants for an information-packed two-day symposium. The most important information for HIM professionals and privacy officers came from the nation’s capital.
Cutbacks underway—Recent defunding of the Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) position by ONC makes practical sense for the healthcare industry and the national budget. The position has been vacant for the past year, and during this time Deven McGraw successfully served as acting CPO and deputy director for health information privacy. Her imminent departure along with other cutbacks will have a trickle-down impact for privacy compliance in 2018.
Onsite audits cease—Yun-kyung (Peggy) Lee, Deputy Regional Manager, OCR, informed attendees that onsite HIPAA audits would no longer be conducted for covered entities or business associates due to staffing cutbacks in Washington, D.C. The concern here is that whatever doesn’t get regulatory attention, may not get done.
To ensure a continued focus on privacy monitoring, HIM and privacy professionals must remain diligent at the organizational, regional, state and national levels to:
- Maintain internal privacy audit activities
- Review any patterns in privacy issues and address through corrective action
- Use environmental scanning to assess resolution agreement results
- Review published privacy complaints to determine how to handle similar situations
- Compare your state of readiness to known complaints
Interoperability advances HIPAA—The national push for greater interoperability is an absolute necessity to improve healthcare delivery. However, 30 years of new technology and communication capabilities must be incorporated into HIPAA rules. Old guidelines block us from addressing new goals. We expect more fine-tuning of HIPAA in 2018 to achieve the greater good of patient access and health information exchange.
Luminary Healthcare Panel
Tuesday’s keynote session was the second most relevant discussion for my role as vice president of privacy, compliance and HIM policy at MRO. Panelists provided a glimpse into the future of healthcare while reiterating HIM’s destiny—data integrity and information governance.
HIM’s role extends beyond ensuring correctly coded data for revenue cycle performance. It also includes the provision of correct and complete data for the entire healthcare enterprise and patient care continuum under value-based reimbursement. The need for stronger data integrity and overall information governance was threaded through every conversation during this session.
Make no doubt about it! HIM’s role is expanding. We have the underlying knowledge of the importance of data and the information it yields. More technology leads to more data and an increased need for sophisticated health information management and governance. Our history of protecting patient information opens the door to our future in the healthcare industry.
About Rita Bowen
In her role as Vice President of Privacy, Compliance and HIM Policy for MRO, Bowen serves as the company’s Privacy and Compliance Officer (PCO), oversees the company’s compliance with HIPAA, and ensures new and existing client HIM policies and procedures are to code. She has more than 40 years of experience in Health Information Management (HIM), holding a variety of HIM director and consulting roles. Prior to joining MRO, she was Senior Vice President and Privacy Officer for HealthPort, Inc., now known as CIOX Health. Bowen is an active member of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), having served as its President and Board Chair, as a member of the Board of Directors, and of the Council on Certification. Additionally, Bowen is the chair for the AHIMA Foundation. She has been honored with AHIMA’s Triumph Award in the mentor category; she is also the recipient of the Distinguished Member Award from the Tennessee Health Information Management Association (THIMA). Bowen is an established author and speaker on HIM topics and has taught HIM studies at Chattanooga State and the University of Tennessee Memphis. Bowen holds a Bachelor of Medical Science degree with a focus in medical record administration and a Master’s degree in Health Information/ Informatics Management Technology.
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