Jennifer Wessel, JD, MPH
Senior Policy Analyst and Data Privacy Officer
As ACHI’s privacy officer, I had an opportunity to learn about new opportunities and challenges in health information management (HIM) at the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) annual Health Data and Information Conference in Chicago this week. Lessons obtained from the conference will help to strengthen ACHI’s privacy infrastructure and prepare for changes in the HIM environment.
Players from improvisational comedy troupe The Second City hosted the general sessions, encouraging attendees to step out of their comfort zone and “break through the scene given.” Speaker Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the Navy, built on that theme, saying that we do not have to have it all figured out, but we need to continue learning. She spoke about the importance of staying focused because when “you lose sight, you lose the fight. Focus is your power.”
On day two of AHIMA19, American Medical Association (AMA) President Dr. Patrice Harris spoke on the opioid epidemic and encouraged attendees to be ambassadors for the cause of eliminating the stigma associated with substance use disorder. She discussed the importance of making sure everyone has equitable access to pain treatment and the need to remove barriers to treatment. She also introduced the National Opioid Policy Roadmap. Dr. David O. Barbe, past president of the AMA, addressed the burden of chronic disease and the need to pivot towards social determinants of health to impact the health of our country. He said ZIP code is significantly associated with health, and we need to use this data to be effective at the point of care.
A highlight of the conference was the opportunity to hear from speaker Doug Lindsay, who was bedridden for 11 years due to a mysterious illness. He believed his problem was solvable. Existing surgeries were not an option, so ultimately he developed his own surgery, and it was successful. Now a medical consultant and professional speaker, Lindsay said his leadership approach is based on the belief that positive things can happen.
Sessions on privacy and security focused on how courts have addressed requests for information, particularly in light of recent opioid legislation; new trends in Office for Civil Rights audits; due diligence in evaluating business associates; and the importance of risk analyses. Attendees were reminded to manage each step in the record life cycle and to verify the “chain of trust,” which is fundamental to understanding where data is going and who is getting it. Other educational sessions focused on disruptions in health care, innovation, and the value of using data analytics to market quality.