Table of contents

The Role of Health Information Management in Today’s Healthcare Landscape

The Role of Health Information Management in Today’s Healthcare Landscape

By Kiwi Health

Published: Sep 2, 2023

Table of contents

In the dynamic world of healthcare, Health Information Management (HIM) has emerged as a critical component. HIM is a discipline that focuses on managing health information systems, ensuring the quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security of patient data.

This comprehensive article will explore the various facets of HIM, its significance in the current healthcare scenario, and how it is shaping the future of healthcare.

Understanding Health Information Management (HIM)

Health Information Management (HIM) is a practice that organizes and manages health data to enhance the quality of care. It aims to make the right health content accessible whenever required, ensuring its high quality and security.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) identifies five functional areas covered by HIM:

  • Data Capture, Validation, and Maintenance: This involves introducing policies and procedures to obtain reliable data, resulting in improved patient safety and better research outcomes. It includes data collection from various sources, validating the accuracy and reliability of the data, and maintaining the data in a secure and accessible manner.
  • Data Analysis, Transformation, and Decision Support: This is centered on extracting essential knowledge and insights to improve patient care. It entails employing analytical methods and tools to convert unprocessed data into valuable patient details that can aid in decision-making within the healthcare system.
  • Information Dissemination and Liaison: This is about effectively sharing health records, reports, and research findings. It involves the use of various communication channels to disseminate information to the relevant stakeholders, including patients, healthcare organizations, and policymakers.
  • Health Information Resource Management and Innovation: This manages health records throughout their entire lifespan. It involves the management of health information resources, including the creation, use, storage, retrieval, and disposal of these resources.
  • Health Information Governance and Stewardship: This guarantees that the usage of data adheres to rules, standards, ethical guidelines, and the internal policies of the organization. It involves the development and implementation of policies and procedures to govern the use of health information.

Distinguishing Health Information from Health Data

In the context of HIM, it’s essential to differentiate between data and information. Data signifies unprocessed facts and numbers, whereas health information (HI) represents the insightful knowledge derived from organizing and interpreting this raw data into a comprehensible format.

For example, individual data points such as “120/80 blood pressure,” “20 years,” “10/12/21,” and “John Snow” are merely isolated facts. However, when these elements are combined into a statement like “On October 12, 2021, 20-year-old John Snow had a blood pressure reading of 120/80,” they become valuable information. This patient information aids in patient care and is beneficial to both healthcare professionals and patients.

This distinction is crucial in understanding the role of HIM in transforming raw data into actionable information.

The Role of Medical Codes in HIM

Health Information heavily relies on healthcare terminology standards or codes, representing core medical concepts. These industry-specific vocabularies help avoid miscommunications and ambiguity in records. Some of the most widespread coding systems include:

  • ICD-10-CM: For documenting injuries and diagnoses. It is a system used worldwide for the classification of diseases and health problems.
  • CPT and HCPS: For reporting all types of healthcare services. These codes are used to describe the specific services provided by healthcare professionals.
  • CDT: For documenting dental treatment. It is a coding system used specifically in the field of dentistry.
  • SNOMED CT: For capturing symptoms, clinical findings, and other aspects related to the course of treatment. It is a comprehensive clinical terminology system used in electronic health records.
  • LOINC: For recording lab orders/results and vital signs. It is a coding system used for laboratory and clinical observations.

These coding systems play a crucial role in ensuring the accuracy and consistency of health information, which is vital for effective patient care and health research.

Health Information Systems (HISs)

Health Information Systems (HISs) capture, store, and manage medical information. These systems play a crucial role in the delivery of healthcare services.

The electronic health record (EHR) system, which manages crucial data about patients and their treatment progression, is the central component of the entire health information infrastructure. Other widely-spread HISs include:

  • Radiology Information Systems (RISs): These systems manage the data and operations of radiology departments, including patient scheduling, image tracking, and results reporting.
  • Laboratory Information Systems (LISs): These systems manage the data and operations of clinical laboratories, including test ordering, sample tracking, and results reporting.
  • Pharmacy Management Systems: These systems manage the data and operations of pharmacies, including prescription processing, inventory management, and billing.
  • Practice Management Software: This software helps manage the day-to-day operations of medical practice, including scheduling, billing, and reporting.
  • Patient Portals: These are online applications that give patients access to their personal health information, allowing them to schedule appointments, view their medical records, and communicate with their healthcare providers.
  • Medical Billing Software: This software automates the billing process, helping healthcare providers to submit and track insurance claims.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring Systems: These systems allow healthcare providers to monitor patients’ health remotely, providing real-time electronic data on vital signs and other health indicators.

Health Information Exchange Standards and Rules

For communication, HISs rely on data exchange standards such as ASC X12, HL7 v2 and v2 messages, and FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources).

These standards facilitate the smooth exchange of information, enabling physicians to build a complete picture of a patient’s health. 

They ensure that health information can be shared and understood across different systems and platforms, which is crucial for coordinated and integrated care.

Data Quality Management in HIM

Data quality management is a crucial aspect of HIM. It involves the application, collection, warehousing, and analysis of data. AHIMA has introduced a data quality management model that defines ten quality attributes to be applied across these dimensions. These attributes include:

  • Accuracy: The data should be correct and free from errors.
  • Accessibility: The data should be easily accessible to authorized users.
  • Comprehensiveness: The data should cover all the necessary aspects of a patient’s health.
  • Consistency: The data should be consistent across different sources and over time.
  • Definition: The data should be clearly defined and understood.
  • Precision: The data should be precise and detailed.
  • Granularity: The data should be at the right level of detail.
  • Currency: The data should be up-to-date.
  • Timeliness: The data should be available when needed.
  • Relevancy: The data should be relevant to the needs of the users.

These attributes are essential for ensuring the quality of health data, which in turn affects the quality of patient care and health research.

Patient Identity Management and the Master Patient Index

A Master Patient Index (MPI) is a database that liaises documents related to the same individual within a HIS. It guarantees the accurate identification of patients throughout the care process, acting as the sole reliable reference for all Health Information Systems within the network.

The MPI plays a crucial role in ensuring the accuracy and consistency of patient data, which is vital for effective patient care and health research.

Healthcare Database Management

Healthcare database management is another vital aspect of Health Information Management (HIM). It encompasses the capacity to generate, alter, safeguard, access, and erase data within a specific repository. 

Contemporary databases are typically governed through a Database Management System (DBMS), which acts as an intermediary between the data and the applications that utilize it. This process employs a range of technologies and methodologies to oversee the storage, recovery, and modification of data within a database.

Security Management in HIM

Security management is a significant aspect of HIM. It outlines multiple security domains that create a basis for the utmost level of data protection across the organization. These domains include:

  • Access control: This involves the use of policies and procedures to control who can access the data and what they can do with it.
  • Telecommunication and network security: This involves the use of technologies and practices to protect the data as it is transmitted over networks.
  • Application and system development security: This involves the use of secure coding practices and security testing to ensure the security of applications and systems.
  • Operations security: This involves the use of procedures and controls to protect the data during its day-to-day operations.
  • Physical security: This involves the use of physical measures to protect the data and the systems that store it.
  • Disaster recovery planning: This involves the development of plans to recover the data in the event of a disaster.

These domains are essential for ensuring the security of health data, which is crucial for maintaining patient trust and complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

The Role of Health Information Managers

Health Information Managers play a crucial role in the management of health information. They develop processes to enhance the quality of documentation, prepare data for further analysis, take part in managing and maintaining databases, and design privacy and security protection policies.

They require a comprehensive understanding of areas such as system design, information security, legislation, quality control, data analytics, and many other disciplines. Their role is vital in ensuring the effective management of health information, which in turn affects the quality of patient care and health research.

The Future of HIM: Big Data and Analytics

The future of HIM is expanding toward Big Data and analytics. With the increasing amount of health data being generated, the need for sophisticated data management and analysis tools is more significant than ever.

This expansion will require the expertise of Big Data engineers, data scientists, and other advanced professionals in the digital data universe.

The use of Big Data and analytics in HIM can provide valuable insights into patient health, enhance the quality of care, and facilitate the development of personalized treatment plans.

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