How big data is changing the role of HIM professionals

The challenge of big data is to harness it, understand it and use it to cut costs, create more predictive healthcare and improve outcomes. To that end, providers are realizing the need for more sophisticated IT systems that allow healthcare information management professionals to meet the challenge in various new roles, according to an article published this month in the American Health Information Management Association's Journal of AHIMA

For example, according to the article, Rayan McMackin, a senior data analyst for New Ulm (Minn.) Medical Center, part of Allina Health, has worn many different hats in her time with her company--and she wouldn't have it any other way.

McMackin moved roles as the need for data analysis grew. Starting as a file clerk, and then a coder, her current role calls for writing structured query language (SQL) queries, running scheduled and ad hoc reports, explaining the data and making suggestions for process improvement.

"Everything changes and evolves, and it needs to," McMackin said.

Meanwhile, Eugene Richard, a coding integrity program manager at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in Redwood City, Calif., said that his job revolves around data, and soon, so will every other health information manager's job.

Richard said that data analysis will eventually become a part of every HIM professional's job.

"Information management is migrating toward an entirely electronic medium," he said. "Paper is quickly becoming a thing of the past. You have to be able to feel very comfortable working with electronic data. Most of the time, it's just raw data. You have to know what to do with it."

In the very near future, the article predicts, HIM professionals will be called upon to harness data's power, explain its context, and help to ensure its integrity.

Big data and the changing healthcare IT market are creating more than few new roles for healthcare professionals. For example, as reported in early August, population health management will offer a huge opportunity for health information management professionals who gain expertise in the new specialty.

"While most healthcare providers see the critical importance of [population health management], they do not have the information technology, the required understanding of [population health information management], or the data-management skills and resources [necessary to use it]," wrote Bonnie Cassidy, senior director of HIM innovation at Nuance Communications.

To learn more:
- read the Journal of AHIMA article

Related Articles:
The three pillars of population health--and how they fit together
Ochsner and Intermountain: Access to big data isn't enough
Analytics will be the 'nervous system' of ACOs
Technology key to population health management, ACO maturation
Big data use could save $450 billion in healthcare costs

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