AHIMA: Put patient at center, urges innovation guru

Wil Yu

Become "pioneers" in health information management, Wil Yu urged the audience at his keynote speech Oct. 2 at AHIMA's 84th Annual Convention and Exhibit.

[See also: Q&A with ONC's Wil Yu]

Yu, senior advisor, Innovation, for the City and County of San Francisco, led the nationwide healthcare innovation efforts for the United States through the Department of Health and Human Services.

“As guardians of health information, you are in the optimal position to thrive in what I consider this country’s long summer of health innovation,” Yu said. “Your work will build the infrastructure of an evolution that will not only improve and save lives, but also change the way Americans perceive their health and their own care.”

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While the United States needs healthcare innovation more than ever, there has also never been a better time to be an innovator with market and policy forces building momentum for dramatic change, he said.


“We need to better identify and help those who will be sick before they show up in care settings such as the emergency room where care is more expensive,” he said. “With the support of taxpayer funded programs and public-private partnerships, we can influence the magnitude, velocity and timing of innovation.”


Yu measures innovation by the value obtained from a new finding or application over time.

He shared a case history on scurvy to illustrate how challenging it can be to incorporate new information to advance adoption and diffusion of innovations. It took more than 260 years from the early experiment of adding lemon juice to daily diets aboard long overseas voyages before citrus fruits were routinely incorporated as part of the daily ration.


Yu encouraged HIM professionals never to lose focus on the most important reason for innovation: better patient care.


“The patient is always at the center,” he said.  “We can work together to reduce medical errors, lower hospital readmission rates and raise levels of patient engagement, so that the future care for children born today will be vastly improved from today's standard due to the current pioneering efforts of innovators across this country” Yu said.