Health Information Management

Medical records yesterday, today, and tomorrow

HIM-HIPAA Insider, November 17, 2009

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by Elise Belanger, RHIA

When I started working in a hospital in the mid-1960s, the medical record department still had huge wooden index card files, cast-iron shelving, high wooden stools, and lights hanging from long chains that barely lit the dingy, dreary, and stuffy rooms. The department looked like a library because it essentially functioned as one, storing the records and providing a basic indexing system to find them.

A portrait of Grace Meyers Whiting, founder of the American Medical Record Librarian Association, was displayed outside the room. Whiting, who wore small round spectacles and styled her hair in a neat bun, represented the medical record librarians of 1920, the year she founded the association. This reference to times past lingered in the medical record department as staff members continued to work with paper records and mammoth, burdensome files.

Newer HIM directors may not remember a time when the HIM department looked like this, nor may they remember a time when records were solely on paper. Appreciation of modern advances requires one to consider them in the larger context of how the HIM profession has changed over time.

Note: For more information, visit the HCPro Web site. Subscribers to Medical Records Briefing have access to this article in the December issue of the newsletter.

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