What is HIM?
The healthcare industry generates vast amounts of data every day. Personal information, private health data, payment and transaction details, doctor’s notes, medications, care records, and more, have to be noted, stored, analyzed, and shared.
The smooth handling and transmission of this data is key to providing faster and more efficient healthcare services. Security of personal information is paramount, with the safety of millions of records at stake. Following this, effective Health Information Management (HIM), or the processing of this data, is essential.
According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), HIM “is the practice of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care.”
Due to the amount of sensitive information handled, and the potential considerations of having and using this data, HIM is subject to compliance to stringent regulations. These include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which seek to protect patient privacy.
With the growing reliance on new information technology, the handling, analyzing, and leveraging of this data is key to leading the healthcare industry towards the further promotion of patient wellness.
Why is HIM important?
Smooth handling of the data collected allows hospitals, healthcare centers, even government and insurance offices to more efficiently process services and payments for patients.
But beyond this, translating these vast amounts of information also allows HIM practitioners to make recommendations on how to improve their own systems.
George Zachariah of Dynamics Research Corporation, notes that leveraging analytics helps professionals determine how to cut down on costs, aid in clinical decision-making, eliminate fraudulent practices, improve the levels of coordination needed to support a patient, and to overall increase the wellness of the patients.
The Journal of AHIMA reports that both the COVID-19 pandemic and the passage of the HITECH Act have resulted in the accelerated adoption of digital medical records. A separate report has adoption rates for electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHRs) at 89%.
Following this, HIM analysts have an increasingly significant role in mining insights and workable action points from this wealth of data. They may support hospital administrators through a wide variety of decision points, including whether to merge with other healthcare groups, how to improve quality of services, or pinpoint how to reduce hospital-acquired conditions.
What is the future of HIM?
Developments in HIM are necessarily connected to developments in information technology. Following this, changes in the technological landscape has made HIM faster, but in certain ways, more vulnerable.
The following are trends that affect where HIM is currently at, and where it is headed towards:
Putting up personal information online has the benefit of making processing and transmission faster and easier, but it also opens one up to cyber attacks, wherein personal information may be leaked, sold, and abused.
The HIPAA journal reports that in 2015, almost 100 million healthcare records were affected by cyber attacks. According to a separate study by TrapX Security, cyber attacks went up by 63% in 2016 compared to the previous year.
Ponemon Institute’s Sixth Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy and Security of Healthcare Data also that showed that 89% of healthcare groups have had at least one data breach.
Securing patient information remains at the forefront of HIM concerns. After all, patients are less likely to invest in a system if they believe that their personal information may be compromised.
Telemedicine and Internet of Things
Telemedicine has been rapidly adopted, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 2020, 43.5% of Medicare primary care visits were done over telehealth. Following widespread adoption by patients, the telehealth industry is set to make $185.6 billion in the next five years.
Telemedicine apps are also becoming a standard fixture in allowing healthcare providers to manage patient information. Apps may take note of, store, and make use of location services, appointment information, messages, and service provider history.
Alongside apps, the use of wearable devices tied to mobile apps allows doctors to track patient vitals. These devices include wearable ECG and EKG monitors, and other devices that track temperature, sugar level, and blood pressure. The experience of Internet of Things (IoT) allows constant and easy transmission of data.
By 2025, 30% of the projected multi-trillion dollar market for IoT devices will come from healthcare.
Interoperability refers to the ability for data to be easily shared among various parties. Multiple groups may use different systems or protocols to handle information. As the dependence on digital storage and usage of information deepens, the ability to seamlessly pass data from one group to another becomes more important.
Medical histories, test results, personal information, and other data should be able to be accessed and processed across multiple service providers.
According to Niko Skievaski, cofounder of healthcare interoperability company Redox, the patient moves from one provider to another.
“As such, true interoperability will not be achieved until her clinical data follows her effortlessly,” Skievaski says. “This is patient-centered interoperability and it’s sadly missing from the typical discussion in our industry.”
As part of the push for ease of information transfer and interconnection, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has noted that it seeks to “achieve nationwide interoperability to enable a learning health system” from 2021 to 2024.
Down the line, there will be greater need to create regulations and protocols to ensure that data is protected and used properly.
“Technology advances are enabling the creation, capture and retention of more data and information, from more sources every minute of the day,” says Deborah Green, AHIMA COO and executive vice president. “Beyond the need to harness, analyze and turn data and information into intelligence, there is also a need to control it.”
Adherence to whatever new regulations arise from however HIM evolves over the next few years will be essential for the improvement of quality care, efficiency, and cost savings.