The collection, storage and analysis of data is playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare field, as are the professionals who work with this information. The 2017 HIMSS Leadership and Workforce Survey found that 61 percent of vendors/consultants and 53 percent of hospitals had increased the size of their IT workforce in the last year.
As the field of health information grows, it is increasingly being used to develop new applications to improve the patient experience and increase the efficiency and efficacy of healthcare organizations.
To succeed in a position in this constantly evolving industry, it is important for new Health Information Management graduates to stay up-to-date on the changes that are occurring in the field, including the latest developments and priorities. The following are four important trends with which current or future HIM students should be familiar.
Privacy and security
With advances in healthcare technology, an increasing amount of information is being stored online. While this offers a number of benefits for patient care, it also makes the data vulnerable to attack from online threats, such as hackers who want to steal and sell the personal information found in electronic health records. In fact, according to TrapX Security, cyber attacks against healthcare institutions increased by 63 percent in 2016 as compared to 2015. The organization expects the trend to continue.
“Lack of new technology and associated best practices make it very difficult for hospitals to detect and remediate ransomware attacks,” cofounder Moshe Ben-Simon said in a press release. “We expect to see an increase in the number of incidents in 2017.”
To answer this growing threat, strategies and technologies that ensure the privacy and security of health data are a growing focus of professionals in the field. In addition to the ultimate goal of protecting sensitive information, healthcare organizations also need to be able to build trust with their patients. Patients will not accept storing their health information online if they feel that their provider is unable to keep it safe and secure.
Information governance is one of the most significant challenges in health information management. This function involves implementing policies, structures, controls and other procedures to ensure an organization’s data assets are handled appropriately.
“Technology advances are enabling the creation, capture and retention of more data and information, from more sources every minute of the day,” Deborah Green, American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) COO and executive vice president, said in an interview with Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review. “Beyond the need to harness, analyze and turn data and information into intelligence, there is also a need to control it.”
According to AHIMA, information governance is an important addition to the more traditional approaches taken by professionals in HIM. IG optimizes health data extraction abilities, while also mitigating risk and ensuring that compliance guidelines are met. Healthcare organizations that have these systems in place will likely see improvements in the areas of population health, quality and safety of care, efficiency and efficacy of operational efforts and cost savings.
One of the major benefits of modern health information technology is the ease with which data can be transported and shared between stakeholders. However, this is only manageable if the systems used by different departments and healthcare organizations are interoperable.
According to HIMSS, interoperability is the ability for computer software or systems to communicate and exchange information in a way that the data is understandable to the user. This enables test results, medical histories, images and other important data to be sent from one provider to another, whether the patient is seeing a specialist, changing doctors or being treated by multiple professionals at a given time.
“The common thread in any interoperability use case is the patient. She is the one moving between specialists, being admitted to the hospital, and attempting to engage in her care,” wrote Niko Skievaski, cofounder of healthcare interoperability company Redox, in an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “As such, true interoperability will not be achieved until her clinical data follows her effortlessly. This is patient-centered interoperability and it’s sadly missing from the typical discussion in our industry.”
HIM professionals are becoming increasingly involved in this process. For example, AHIMA and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) jointly published a white paper in 2015 called HIT Standards for HIM Practices, which outlined an approach for cross-collaboration that would increase HIM involvement in the development of HIT products.
“Identifying HIM practice needs and a means to address them in standards is the first step in achieving our shared goal of the interoperability and overall governance of health information,” said Deborah Green, AHIMA chief innovation and global services officer.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) outlined three main stages for achieving nationwide interoperability by 2024:
- “Send, receive, find and use priority data elements to improve health and healthcare quality.” (2015-2017)
- “Expand interoperable health IT and users to improve health and lower cost.” (2018-2020)
- “Achieve nationwide interoperability to enable a learning health system.” (2021-2024)
These steps are in aligned with the ONC’s ultimate goal of creating a strong foundation in healthcare IT to equip patients with digital pictures of their health over a lifetime.
The rate at which data is being produced, collected and analyzed is greater than ever before. IBM reported that the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.
Healthcare is no exception to this trend of increased collection. But raw data does very little to impact patient care on its own. The numbers must first be analyzed to ensure that the information is leveraged properly. As such, data analytics is playing an increasingly important role in health information management.
According to HIMSS, HIM professionals are playing an increasingly active role in determining what types of data are needed to address and resolve challenges in health care en route to providing the highest quality care to patients.
“HIM professionals are increasingly getting involved wherever healthcare data is being collected, stored, or retrieved,” the organization wrote. “All of this wealth of information requires analysis for decision-making purposes, and HIM professionals have the critical thinking skills to effectively analyze health data and information of all types.”
In its most basic form, data analytics refers to the processes and techniques that are used to examine large amounts of data to find trends that can benefit a business in some way. These strategies can be qualitative or quantitative in nature and the specific approaches vary by organization.
George Zachariah, a consultant at Dynamics Research Corporation, wrote in an article for Healthcare IT News that there are five major ways that hospitals can benefit from the use of data analytics. Using analytics, according to Zachariah, can help to:
- Cut down on administrative costs.
- Support clinical decision-making.
- Reduce abuse and fraud.
- Improve care coordination.
- Increase patient wellness.
Because healthcare organizations can experience benefits such as these when their collected information is properly leveraged, increased use of data analytics is likely to continue throughout 2017 and beyond in the field. Learn more about how a degree in health information management can benefit your career advancement.