Providers grappling with the 'other' ROI

With 'so much happening out there,' release of information managers are at a 'crossroads'
By Mike Miliard
03:10 PM

In addition to making for better, more coordinated patient care, one of the imperatives of health information exchange is to show a positive return on investment.

After all, an HIE – the noun – has to fund itself for a sustainable future, even if a study published last year in AHIMA's Perspectives in Health Information Management showed that barely half the HIE executives it polled use metrics to gauge their exchange's financial ROI.

In the meantime, when it comes to HIE – the verb – there are more immediate concerns for health information management professionals in hospitals and other care settings having to do with the other ROI: release of information.

In a networking breakfast on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the AHIMA Convention & Exhibit in Atlanta, conference attendees will have the chance to compare notes and basically "talk about what they want to talk about" with regard to this challenging and fast-changing area of information management, says Julie A. Dooling, director of HIM practice excellence with AHIMA.

At the breakfast, titled "It's 7 a.m. Do You Know Who is Sharing Your Health Information?" Dooling, along with ROI managers and privacy officers from hospitals in Florida, Missouri and Oregon, will engage in discussion about a facet of healthcare that seems to be at a "crossroads," says Dooling.

"There is so much happening out there," with regard to ROI policies these days, she says. "The act of sharing and exchanging information within health information exchange, is really so fast. Can we keep up with privacy and security rules? Can we keep up with demand? Can we keep up with all the changes we need to do internally to all of our documents, such as our notice of privacy practices?"

As AHIMA Editorial Director Anne Zender wrote in the Journal of AHIMA this past June, new requirements for privacy protections, breach notifications and enforcement actions brought about by HITECH and the HIPAA Omnibus Rule mean "the release of information landscape is changing."

That's why AHIMA updated its "Release of Information Toolkit: A Practical Guide for the Access, Use, and Disclosure of Protected Health Information," which seeks to help healthcare professionals "develop an effective ROI process across any setting," she wrote, "a framework and reference guide to ensure disclosures of PHI are made in accordance with all state and federal regulations in a timely manner to guarantee the integrity of the PHI is maintained."

Like so many other folks in this industry, HIM professionals are "trying to get a handle on a lot of things at the same time," says Dooling.

The past few years have seen big strides when it comes to health information exchange. "There's a lot of groundwork that's been laid, such as the Direct Project and the Connect Project, through ONC," she says. "There are some standards that are being followed, and there is progress being made."

But as more and more information is being shared, the release of information practices within a given facility are also going to evolve, says Dooling. "And that's what we want to hear from our members. We want to hear what they're dealing with on a daily basis: what are their challenges, what are their opportunities and how do they see this playing out in the future?"

From making the most of the new era of patient engagement, to handling the omnipresent danger of data breaches, to questions about technology – "does it matter, does it help, does it hinder if you're using the same EHR systems? Are you using HIE technology to enable exchange?" – ROI professionals have their hands full, to be sure.

That's what this breakfast is for, says Dooling. Anything goes. "We come to the networking breakfast and try to set the stage," she says. "We want to make it up to date and informative for the attendees, but if they want to change the conversation, we can do that. We just want to hear what's happening out there."

"It's 7 a.m. Do You Know Who is Sharing Your Health Information?" takes place Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7 a.m. in room A312 of Building A of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

[See also: AHIMA calls for improved health IT governance]