ABF and PCEHR on the agenda at HIMAA 2012

This article first appeared in the August 2012 edition of Pulse+IT Magazine.
The introduction of activity-based funding (ABF) and the PCEHR are high on the agenda at the 2012 Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA) conference, being held on the Gold Coast next month. For the first time, there will also be a clinical coding stream running throughout the conference.

Next year, the University of Western Sydney is expected to offer a major in health information management (HIM) as part of its general information technology course, probably the first time this has been offered in Australia and a pointer to the demand for HIM professionals that is forecast to grow as new initiatives such as ABF and the PCEHR come on stream.

Allied to the relaunch of Queensland University of Technology's bachelor of health science - health information management degree, which took a breather for a year before being offered again next year, the new UWS course shows there is not only a demand for education and professional skills from undergraduates but a need for well-qualified HIM professionals with a grounding in basic IT as well.

For Sallyanne Wissmann, president of HIMAA and director of information management in the information and infrastructure division at Mater Health Services in Brisbane, the new courses are part of a growing recognition from industry that there is an increasing need for people well-grounded in health information management and IT.

“There has been a history of HIM courses grounded in a number of disciplines, whether it is business management or public health or health science or health services management, so this is the first one that is offering it within the IT area,” Ms Wissmann says. “I think the IT degree will be a really good foundation upon which to then build the health information management knowledge base, particularly given where things are progressing. IT fundamentals permeate health information management now.”

At HIMAA 2012 Vera Dimitropoulos from the National Centre for Classification in Health (NCCH) at the University of Sydney will discuss the new course, which Ms Wissmann and other colleagues from HIMAA have been involved in helping to develop. Ms Wissmann says she expects it to prove very attractive to new entrants to the field.

“IT and information management really needs to have a strong partnership, so that offering will be attractive, or potentially more attractive than historical courses as a lot of people are interested in IT as a basis and being able to specialise in the application of IT into health.”

Health Workforce Australia's (HWA) CEO Mark Cormack will also address the conference, presenting the results of a recent study into workforce requirements that HWA has completed. Ms Wissmann says drivers such as the introduction of ABF and the PCEHR and a progression towards more electronic capture and management of health information at all levels will see workforce demand continue to grow.

This is something that is happening internationally as well. As part of her role as HIMAA president, Ms Wissmann will attend the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) convention in September, and she also represents the Western Pacific as an executive member of the International Federation of Health Information Management Associations (IFHIMA).

She is preparing a briefing paper for the IFHIMA board on the transition to “eHIM”, or the move into the digital world and what that journey might look like. In her opening address, Ms Wissmann is hoping to draw together what she sees as the main challenges facing the profession both here and overseas.

“I want to highlight the role that health information management plays in the healthcare environment and how it's really important that we partner and collaborate in the space,” she says. “Collaborating with our peers in health informatics and clinicians and administration and management at all levels, whether in your workplace at a healthcare provider or at a state or national level, is so important, particularly with the national health reforms happening.

“The PCEHR, activity based funding, are all large changes to the healthcare system but they are spaces that traditionally health information managers and health information management professionals have played a part in, in historical records management, record content, information privacy, coding, counting and reporting.

“This is a critical role. It's okay for the policymakers but at the end of the day we are the people who are on the ground and doing the work so we need to be involved in an advisory capacity in the policy-setting space and the process space in terms of establishing the processes. Health information managers need to have a say in that environment, to share the knowledge.

“I really want to encourage the attendees and more broadly the HIMAA membership to think about their role and what that means in terms of networking, stakeholder engagement, where's the real value in terms of tasks and functions and being involved in projects. If you sit back and wait to be asked it might not happen. Why not say 'we have something to offer and leverage our knowledge and contribute'?”

Other speakers include a representative from Ms Wissmann's organisation, Mater Health Services, which has been heavily involved in the development of the PCEHR through its role as a Wave 2 site. The representative will discuss what Mater Health Services has been able to deliver through its Mater Shared Electronic Health Record for new mothers, Ms Wissmann says.

“We are currently in a transition phase through to the end of January next year about how we hook what we've done up with the national PCEHR system. That's the approach that is being taken with the Wave sites in general. From a healthcare providers' perspective, we'll look at what their journey has been and how we've been able to partner with the Commonwealth to deliver some of their vision in terms of the PCEHR.

Also on the agenda is activity based funding, with keynote presentations from Tony Sherbon, CEO of the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), and Ric Marshall, who leads the team responsible for the ABF system reforms in hospitals.

Health information management professionals will be responsible for a lot of the hard yards in introducing this national funding model for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Ms Wissmann says. “ABF is a model of payment for healthcare provision and that needs to be measured, so obviously the activity needs to be counted, it needs to be counted consistently and to meet consistent definitions, because now it will be reported to IHPA.”

HIMAA 2012 will also feature for the first time a clinical coding stream throughout the conference, she says. “We've identified that a number of our members work in the clinical coding space, either in the management of the clinical coding function or in clinical coding itself, and historically there have been coding conferences that are no longer happening, so we have identified a need to continue to explore and present information around coding and classification themes and issues that are happening.”

Coding standards for diabetes were changed in July, so a clinical update will be provided involving both a clinical component and a classification viewpoint. Workshops will also cover diagnosis related group (DRG) classifications and their role in ABF, performance indicators for coding quality (PICQ) analysis, and changes to ICD-10-AM/ACHI/ACS and ICD-11.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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