AHIMA 2017 preview: ‘We’ve taken it up a notch this year’

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The activities and discussions at this year’s American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) conference will go beyond fundamentals, according to the group’s vice president of health information management (HIM) practice excellence, Lou Ann Wiedemann, MS.

AHIMA 2017 will be held Oct. 7-11 in Los Angeles, with more than 4,000 professionals expected to attend and sessions ranging from ICD-10 to hearing former congressional leaders speak about healthcare reform. HealthExec spoke with Wiedemann about what she believes sets the conference apart from what other associations offer.

HealthExec: What were the most in-demand topics when you asked attendees what they wanted to hear about this year?

Lou Ann Wiedemann, MS: Things like the coding topics. Even though we’re a year into ICD-10, the code classification is still extremely different than what they’re used to, so I think that’s going to be a big topic at the clinical coding meeting. I think anything related to cybersecurity and privacy are going to be hot topics. We’re seeing those in the news more and more and the attendees are looking for ways to beef up their programs and keep their hospitals or organizations out of the spotlight. Also, themes around informatics and analytics as they relate to value-based purchasing or payment or quality scores or public health initiatives, I think you’ll see those at the forefront.

Two of the keynote speakers are former politicians—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. What do you expect them to add to the conversations at this year’s conference?

This will be the first time we’ve had these different viewpoints. Because there is so much about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and healthcare in general, I think they’re going to bring input from very opposite ends of spectrum and giving members an idea of what’s happening at that level. So many times, in our day-to-day environments, we don’t know really pay attention to some of that higher-level stuff, so they’ll add a whole new dimension to the meeting to help us understand what the policymakers are seeing and what they see as the important initiatives. At their level, what are they considering as the big wins for healthcare this year or the big bangs for your bucks and the big initiatives in U.S. healthcare in general.

For repeat attendees, what will be new this year?

We’re focused much more on leading and innovation. The topics, compared to last year, are a lot more advanced, I would say. Whatever their role is or track is, we’re showing them leading and innovation in that area. Like clinical documentation improvement—what are the leaders in that area doing? What organizations are showing the most improvement? I think that’s new, just the level. We used to have in our tracks, some fundamental items and advice. I think that’s what’s changed, we’ve taken it up a notch this year.

There are expanded vendor halls this year. Attendees will be able to see what are the latest and greatest in technology and how to use it and use it well. If somebody comes in with a Fitbit, how are they using the technology to put that into a patient record? We’re really focusing on the cutting-edge stuff and not so much of the foundational stuff and encouraging them to take it up a notch.

Medical professionals have plenty of options if they want to attend a conference. What makes AHIMA worth their time?

I have been an AHIMA member myself for about 30 years. Health information is made up of a lot of moving parts and there’s nowhere else in the industry where individuals can go to get a conference that’s applicable to everything they do. One day you may be working on your coding department and worrying about bill hold and revenue and the next day, it may be a privacy issue, maybe someone looked at a patient record who wasn’t supposed to, and then the next day, maybe your EHR is down and everybody has to use paper again. It’s the not the same thing every day, you have a variety and AHIMA brings that variety to the conference.

You could spend your morning about what Barbara Boxer and Newt Gingrich think is going to happen on a legislative scale and in the afternoon, learn about the latest in cybersecurity. The next day you spend your day looking at data analytics, maybe you’re thinking about a career change. You won’t find that anywhere else. It’s the best place for people to come and say I’ve got opportunities for career advancement, to find cutting edge technology, to hear from keynote speakers I would otherwise never get to ask questions to. Plus you get to network with your peers. I don’t think other associations do that with the breadth and diversity of AHIMA.