The American Health Information Management Association held its 81st annual convention in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas last week. The group saluted its outgoing CEO Linda Kloss, heard David Blumenthal give a status report on federal healthcare information technology programs he leads and listened as Mark Chassin challenged them on improving healthcare quality and patient safety.
Patient safety, IT center stage
Kloss, who also served as the elected president of AHIMA in 1984-85 and has headed the association of medical records professionals since 1995, plans to retire in March 2010. She received multiple standing ovations at her keynote speech and at an official recognition ceremony a day later when they named a scholarship in her honor.
Like other healthcare trade shows, attendance, which was estimated to be about 2,500 people, was down several hundred from last year, according to Kloss.
Blumenthal, who took over in April leading the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, in his speech said that as a family physician, “I wasn't oriented that much to healthcare IT.”
But younger physicians, including ones Blumenthal was teaching at Harvard Medical School, took to its electronic health-record system quickly, so, he said he forced himself to use it at least in part to keep up. Soon afterward, however, he said, “I came to realize that something very important was happening: I was becoming a better physician because of the availability of the information that record brought to me. Patients who couldn't get through to the specialist could come to me for the results of their tests, and I would have them. I was meeting their needs.”
Chassin, president of the Joint Commission, said that despite healthcare providers having made “a huge effort in the last 10 years to improve safety and quality,” the U.S. healthcare system continues to tolerate the occurrence of serious preventable complications, underuses effective care and overuses treatments that increase patient risk while affording little in the way of health benefits.
“I believe the stakes are starting to get higher because our public stakeholders are starting to get impatient,” Chassin said. The reason for their impatience—the once-commonly shared belief that the U.S. healthcare system consistently produces high-quality care—“has pretty much evaporated,” he said.
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