Health Information Management

Topic: Tips for new HIM directors

HIM-HIPAA Insider, May 1, 2007

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The role of the health information manager has changed over the years. No longer is the HIM department located in the basement of the organization and thought of as just "that place" where staff file and retrieve medical records, and physicians have to go to do the dastardly deed of records completion. During the past 15 years, HIM has come into its own, and the HIM director must be an expert in much more than record filing.

The HIM director of today must understand all the aspects of health records management of the past--including record content and uses, forms and formats, statistics, coding, regulations, and legal aspects of the medical record. However, he or she must also understand technology, databases, HIPAA, electronic medical records (EMRs), and much more. HIM roles have extended from the general hospital to roles in physician practices, in information technology companies, as consultants, in insurance companies, and more. The sky is the limit and the opportunities are limitless.

Changes bring more challenges and more attention. Therefore, regardless of the setting, the HIM director must be a flexible, problem-solving, articulate, and well-organized team player. The director must establish his or her place in the organization.

If you're a new director, here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Get to know your employees and what they do in the department. You may have many challenges to face in this area, so understanding what the current processes are early on is important.
  • Get to know your colleagues in other departments. Establishing a relationship early will go a long way toward communicating that you are a team player. Start with department directors for admitting, the business office, information technology, nursing and medical staff, performance improvement, the compliance officer, and The Joint Commission coordinator. If finance is separate from the business office, make sure you work with the finance director.

  • Know the record retention requirements in your state as well as state licensure regulations.
  • Knowing what your state requires will be of the utmost importance to ensure compliance from a state licensing aspect. You must also know how long you have to retain medical records and whether your state recognizes the EMR as the legal record. If it doesn't, you might have to go to work with your colleagues to get this requirement changed.

    Editor's note: The above article was adapted from the book The HIM Director's Handbook. For more information or to order, call 877/727-1728 or click here.

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