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AHIMA Releases Consumer Engagement Toolkit for HIM Professionals

March 15, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has released a consumer engagement toolkit, a new training and educational resource to help health information management professionals more effectively engage patients.

The resource outlines some of the changing roles for HIM professionals and highlights tools and strategies to assist patients in the management of their own care. The toolkit also addresses how existing and emerging technologies, such as electronic health records (EHRs), mobile health technologies, telehealth services and social media, have changed how patients consume their health information.

According to AHIMA, the increased use of EHRs has led to an essential shift in the way healthcare organizations of all sizes and types engage with healthcare consumers. “Consumers are turning more and more to social media and other technologies to form a relationship with their healthcare team. This includes the use of alternative visit types and communicating through online tools, including patient portals, social media, email and online office visits,” the organization wrote in the consumer engagement toolkit.

The resource also encourages HIM professionals to expand the definition of their role in delivering good customer service. “Consumer engagement is no longer a small sub-section of a HIM practitioner’s job description; it is an integral part of the overall healthcare organization’s consumer engagement strategy. That’s because responsibilities that traditionally fell to clinical care staff may now fall into the realm of HIM.”

According to AHIMA, the lines between HIM and clinicians are no longer quite clear and an ongoing dialogue between patients and their care providers and HIM team members can have a positive impact on the patient experience.

“The job of today’s HIM professional is to give healthcare consumers the tools needed to make all interactions and communications efficient. This toolkit provides a wide variety of resources and tools for HIM and other healthcare professionals who are developing procedures to support the goals of a consumer engagement initiative,” AHIMA stated.

According to AHIMA, some of the changing roles for HIM professional, including serving as a patient healthcare navigator or advocate to collaborate with clinical staff to ensure patients receive copies of their health records and assist patients in reviewing those records. HIM professionals also take on the role of a “release of information specialist” to guide consumers in appropriately accessing their records in compliance with regulatory guidelines and are taking on a leadership role in training employees on the importance of consumer engagement as well as on new technologies and initiatives such as health information exchanges.

The toolkit also contains a lengthy bibliography of additional patient engagement background on programs such as the Blue Button Campaign, the Open Notes Project, and extensive guidelines and advice about patient rights under HIPAA.

The resource also addresses the future of patient engagement especially as the emergence of healthcare reform efforts, increasing healthcare costs, and exponential growth in access to and availability of health information are driving healthcare organizations to find innovative ways to engage directly with healthcare consumers.

“It has become a new imperative for HIM professionals to develop strategies for engaging consumers. HIM professionals can engage consumers in a wide variety of ways, such as assisting them in understanding the importance of healthcare quality, providing education on the relationship between consumer engagement and healthcare outcomes, sharing information about third party reimbursement, helping to explain out of pocket costs, participating in care coordination, and advocating for the patient to assist in mitigating any challenges patients may encounter with the wide variation seen in both healthcare costs and quality of care across the healthcare continuum,” the authors of the toolkit wrote.





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