The Health Information Management Director

The information superhighway of the new millennium has spawned many types of careers that are based on the needs of the growing applications that have evolved from information technology.

In the health industry, the Health Information Management Director is a vital part of the Health Information Systems that are critical avenues delivering health care to various stakeholders such as patients, doctors and hospital adminstrators.

Health Information Management Directors are basically health practicioners that have the same general vision of the health care infrastructures. The scope of the director’s tasks carry the enormity of the health care institutions’ breadth.

FHN is an example of that type of facility based in Illinois and southern Wisconsin. “An average of 1,700 people visit FHN daily for their healthcare needs (that’s over 600,000 patient visits per year).

FHN is the only healthcare provider in our service area that offers affiliations with all three major Rockford, Illinois, hospitals, as well as the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin.

Each patient interaction is taken as a serious responsibility that requires clinical expertise, the latest in medical technology, and a level of trust and commitment that is earned by our people, our products and our processes.” (FHN, 2006)

For FHN, their Health Information Director must be able to, “plan, direct and coordinate Health Information/Medical Records, Coding and Transcription. Knowledge of standards and guidelines related to Hospital and Physician coding, standards and guidelines related to documentation, record content and retention and privacy and security is essential. Acts as privacy officer ensuring compliance with HIPAA requirements.” (2006)

The responsibility requires professionals who have adequate knowledge of medical terms since their environment will be amidst health care. It is not enough that they are organized, keen to observe and decipher information. The more they know health care terms, the more efficient and precise decisions will be.

Institutions often require certifications for this position such as the RHIT. The American Health Information Management Association evaluates RHITs via a written examination. Graduates of two-year associates’s degree program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs of the American Medical Association.

“The Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) requires an associate’s degree and successful performance on the RHIT certification exam.  RHITs are health information technicians who ensure the quality of medical records by verifying their completeness, accuracy, and proper entry into computer systems.

They may also use computer applications to assemble and analyze patient data for the purpose of improving patient care or controlling costs. RHITs often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research.” (AHIMA, 2006)

Responsibilities of the Health Information Management Director are basically to organize and manage information so that pertinent people who need the data can have access to the data when and where they would need them. “Every time a patient receives healthcare, a record is maintained of the observations, medical or surgical interventions, and treatment outcomes.

This record includes information that the patient provides concerning his symptoms and medical history, the results of examinations, reports of X-rays and laboratory tests, diagnoses, and treatment plans. Medical records and health information technicians organize and evaluate these records for completeness and accuracy.” (USDL, 2006)

An example of a RHIA is Gail Graham of the American Health Information Management Association. “Gail Graham, RHIA, is director of health data and informatics for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She oversees the health information management, privacy, national data systems, data quality, and data standardization programs, and represents VA on numerous national and international health information organizations and initiatives.” (AHIMA, 2006)

The task of heath information directors are focused on facilitating the various information that comes into the health care institution. These tasks involve coordinating with various departments to make sure that information is accurate.

The director can have a number of staff to help him do his many duties. In this day and age where information is power, the responsibility of the director is important and making the healthcare institution work at the best of its available resources.

Facilitating information is crucial. Although the director does not directly deal with patients, he must ensure the systems that deliver health care information works effectively, efficiently and economically. Primary task are:

1. Direct the Health Information Technology Program in Accordance with the accreditation standards established by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA);

2. Maintain program accreditation through AMA/AHIMA;
3. Plan and organize the activities of the day-to-day operation of the program;
4. Maintain open communication lines among all levels health care;
5. Promote the program in the community and work closely with area health record professionals.

AHIMA. “2006 AHIMA Board of Directors Biographies” [] 2006

AHIMA. [] 2006

FHN. [] 2006

US Dept. of Labor. [] 2006