AHIMA Members, Volunteers Share COVID-19 Best Practices

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 a pandemic. Up-to-date, transparent, and accurate information is an essential resource for the healthcare experts and governments around the globe working to mitigate the spread of the disease.

Everybody in every community will play a role in fighting COVID-19. To that end, we have assembled AHIMA’s Practice Councils to provide advice, updates, and best practices health information management (HIM) professionals can use to help their organizations respond more effectively to the crisis.

The post will be updated with best practices that have been shared with the Journal of AHIMA. If you have a story, best practice, or update, please send it to [email protected].


The spread of COVID-19 is a good reminder for those in the coding profession to refine their processes around viruses and other issues that have the potential to change coding processes. When a new illness is on the horizon across the country, leaders should be proactive about how to standardize processes within their organizations. Best practices, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Only code confirmed cases of COVID-19; suspected, possible, or probable cases should be reported with codes explaining only the reason for encounter.
  • The guidance from CDC reviews the correct reporting of pneumonia, bronchitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, lower and other respiratory infections associated with COVID-19.
  • The guidance also reviews the distinction between reporting possible exposure to COVID-19 versus exposure to confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Charniece Martin, MBA, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P
Revenue Integrity Analyst
Northwestern Medicine
Chicago, IL
Member, AHIMA Health Information Technologies and Innovation Practice Council


It is imperative that health information management professionals be involved in the collection of data that will assist in controlling this pandemic. Data can help to measure not only outcomes but also trends. Through the screening process (point of entry) into the healthcare system, patients are asked where they have traveled in the last two weeks. This may include not only places abroad but within their local community. Gathering this data in the health record provides a quick and easy way to collect data and look for trends. Here in New York that data helps to isolate high-risk areas. HIM staff were provided with the entire ligature on how to code appropriately as soon as that guidance was available. This too will help in the collection of data. There should also be a way to collect the testing for the virus in the laboratory department.

Katherine Kozlowski, RHIA, CCS, CDIP
Member, AHIMA The Data Use, Governance, and EHR Structure Practice Council


Have a department plan of action in place and share with your teams. Our HIM leadership team, which our HIM department houses all things HIM and coding, have met to create a department plan for patient and organizational needs, as well as for staffing needs. Be mindful not to only plan for patient and world needs, you must also plan for the needs of your teams. Discuss with your teams what their needs and concerns are. If they fall ill, have childcare needs or elderly family member needs what flexibility can be allowed during this time. If they can work remote allow them to do so. Lastly, provide an environment for those that still show up every day during this difficult time to share their concerns and fears while offering them appreciation for still being present.

Ticia Selmon, RHIA, CCS
Ambulatory Coding Manager, Health Information Management
Children’s Minnesota
Edina, MN
Member, Clinical Terminology & classifications Practice Council


There have been malicious attacks associated with COVID-19. It’s unfortunate, but cybercriminals are using the situation to expand attacks. In addition to containing COVID-19 and supporting rapid patient treatment healthcare organizations need to remain diligent when it comes to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are using this crisis to advertise services and solutions to address COVID-19 and are spreading malicious software. It’s important that staff and healthcare professionals obtain about the outbreak from reliable sources like the CDC and WHO and not click on email links, download software from the internet or visit what could be unsafe websites. The most important tool in your arsenal is training that’s consistent, accurate, and repeated.

Chris Apgar, CISSP, C|CISO
CEO and President
Apgar & Associates
Member, AHIMA Privacy and Security Practice Council

Image credit: NIAID-RML, https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/49531042877/in/album-72157712914621487 .

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