AHIMA tackles tough IT topics

by Healthcare IT News

The number of attendees and exhibitors at the annual convention of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) could be down this year because of the economic downturn, but spirits are high, said Lynette Czarkowski, AHIMA’s vice president of HIM products and services.

Czarkowski said information technology is “threaded” throughout the sessions.

“It touches almost everything we do,” she said. “It is a vehicle for improvement, for achieving goals.”

Two keynote speakers – David Blumenthal, MD, the nation’s health IT coordinator, and Mark Leavitt, MD, the head of the Certification Commission for Health IT – are entirely focused on IT.

Leavitt, who is slated to speak on Monday, Oct. 5, at 10:45 a.m., said he would talk about the impact of the economic stimulus package on healthcare information technology and how the certification of IT products is evolving to meet higher expectations.

Blumenthal is slated to speak Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 11:15 a.m. on federal efforts to boost the adoption of healthcare IT.

“The use of IT has professional competence at its core,” he said at a conference last month in Washington D.C.

The convention and exhibit – AHIMA’s 81st – is Oct. 3-8 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, a 10-minute cab ride to Dallas. It’s a family resort atmosphere that Czarkowski says is likely to please many attendees who might find a few minutes here and there to relax.

The schedule is packed from dawn to dusk for the more than 3,500 attendees that are expected. There are more than 10 general sessions, 60 track sessions and 18 practice topics as well as a daylong workshop on ARRA – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There are 25-35 networking breakfasts on a wide range of topics, an show floor with 500 exhibitors and the popular “Not-So-Silent Auction.”

Among the hot topics – each with a clear IT component, Czarkowski identified are:
-    Converting from ICD-9 medical coding to ICD-10, which AHIMA supports. Harry Reynolds Jr., vice president and information compliance officer of BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina will talk Oct. 5 about what his organization has done to prepare;
-    ARRA, including the HITECH Act, and its effect on the adoption of healthcare IT;
-    The legal EHR;
-    Medicare audits, known as RAC audits for the Recovery Audit Contractor program;
-    The use of coded data; and
-    Medical identity theft

Czarkowski said the convention would mark an emotional time for members because president and CEO Linda Kloss would be stepping down after 15 years at the helm.

“She’s been an inspiration to all of us,” Czarkowski said.

“Fifteen years ago many told me that EHRs would make the HIM field irrelevant,” Kloss said. “It is now well understood that HIM is even more critical and the challenges of e-HIM are complex and important.”