The 85th annual convention of the American Health Information Management Association
opened in Atlanta on Monday for a three-day run with a sad farewell, an outline for the future, and an update on a private-sector effort to improve health information interoperability.
During the opening plenary session, AHIMA paid tribute to Kathleen Frawley, its president and board chairman who died in mid-term in June.
“Kathleen believed in her colleagues and her students and she opened so many doors for all of us,” said Patty Thierry Sheridan, in a eulogy that led off the opening day plenary session. Sheridan was AHIMA's 2012 president whom Frawley succeeded. Frawley was the chair of the health information management department at DeVry University in New Brunswick, N.J.
Succeeding Frawley is Angela Kennedy, chairman of the department of health informatics
and health information management Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, La. Kennedy challenged AHIMA members to hone their leadership skills. “It's about achieving a common purpose,” Kennedy said. “Be a catalyst for your organization.”
AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon reported that the ranks of the organization for health information management professionals grew 5% over the past year to more than 70,000 members. Thomas Gordon also urged members to increase their influence within their own organizations by leveraging their knowledge in informatics and information governance. She also advised them to develop personal leadership skills, continue to find effective ways to use health informatics to improve patient care in their organizations, to innovate and advocate for increased use of personal health record as part of an overall movement toward patient involvement.
During the half-day opening session, AHIMA members also heard a progress report on the CommonWell Health Alliance
, a coalition of seven health information technology
vendors launched in March to improve interoperability of health information.
The alliance is developing five key functions, “the basic plumbing of interoperability,” according to Patrice Wolfe, senior vice president and general manager of CommonWell member RelayHealth, a business unit of McKesson Corp. They are a standard for registration of providers and other participants in CommonWell and enrollment of patients and a means to record and manage their individual consents to participation in the exchange.
The key new technical component is an enhanced method of matching patients to their records. “We think we have a better mousetrap,” she said. She recommended adding another level of validation beyond the current conventional record matching techniques, which merely use probabilistic matching techniques and personal identifiers such as the patient's name and date of birth.
The alliance also should aid participants' ability to query and retrieve clinical documents, Wolfe said.
CommonWell members have begun testing the service and its interfaces among participating vendors and are selecting the hospitals and physician practices which will first pilot test the services, according to Wolfe. The pilot probably won't be finished until the spring of 2014. But the planners should be far enough along to issue a preliminary report in time for the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in late February in Orlando, Fla.Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn