This year, health information professionals (HIP) week takes place March 22-28. During this weeklong celebration, it’s helpful to ponder how much the profession has evolved and where we are headed in the future. HIM has seen many changes over the years, and we’ll likely see many more as EHRs continue to become a core part of clinical care.
The history of HIM
HIM has roots dating back as far as the 1920s. During this time, physicians realized that detailed healthcare documentation directly correlated with patient safety and quality of care. However, documentation during this era was very minimal compared to the breadth and detail of information that physicians document today. Still, recognition of the importance of this documentation was a step in the right direction. At the center of it all were the record librarians—that is, the precursor of today’s HIM professionals who were responsible for maintaining the records. At the time, record librarians had no professional organizations to which they could belong, and the profession had yet to receive true recognition.
However, that soon changed in 1928 when the American College of Surgeons set out to improve clinical records by establishing the American Association of Record Librarians. The role of the record librarian continued to evolve commensurate with changes in the ways in which information was captured. Eventually, the profession evolved to include information management—that is, overseeing information throughout the entire organization and particularly as it relates to the privacy, security, and integrity of protected health data.
Although the basic premise of maintaining medical records/health information still applies, today’s HIM professionals are recognized and responsible for so much more than their predecessors.
According to Wikipedia, “Health Information Management Professionals plan information systems, develop health policy, and identify current and future information needs. In addition, they may apply the science of informatics to the collection, storage, analysis, use, and transmissions of information to meet legal, professional, ethical, and administrative records-keeping requirements of health care delivery. They work with clinical, epidemiological, demographic, financial, reference and coded healthcare data. Health information administrators have been described to ‘play a critical role in the delivery of healthcare in the United States through their focus on the collection, maintenance, and use of quality data to support the information-intensive and information-reliant healthcare system.’”
Today’s robust and fast-paced HIM departments no longer include file rooms housing rows and rows of hard copy records. Health information technology—particularly EHRs—have revolutionized the capture and storage of patient information, most of which is now in electronic form. Medical record file rooms are a concept of the past, as many charts are moved to remote locations and/or offsite storage facilities.
This is an exciting time for HIM professionals. During HIP week, we should take a moment to enjoy the recognition and acknowledge just how far we have come.
As an HIM outsourcing company, MRA is grateful for the opportunity to form partnerships with HIM professionals as we assist with the functions that contribute to the delivery of high quality healthcare.