Preparing for a New—and Better—Normal

By Wylecia Wiggs Harris

This month, the Journal of AHIMA published “Building New Policies and Procedures to Incorporate Telehealth.” The article is a granular exploration of the steps health systems should take to ensure robust privacy and security compliance in the wake of dramatically expanded use of remote patient services.

The reporting by authors Rita Bowen, MA, RHIA, CHPS, CHPC, SSGB, and Diana Warner, MS, RHIA, CHPS, CPHI, FAHIMA, is practical, informative, and well worth your time. But what struck me about the article was the idea behind it: All of us, collectively, are quickly entering into the long-awaited “new normal.”

In a recent column in The Atlantic, Arthur C. Brooks writes, “Americans might be entering the waning days of the year-plus coronavirus pandemic, during which life’s ordinary patterns have paused for millions of people. In these last weeks and months before something resembling normality returns, we might ask ourselves, ‘What do I want normal to look like?’ Then, we can start preparing for a new and better normal than what we took for granted until a year ago.”

While the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are far from over, the success of the vaccines have established a beachhead formidable enough for us to begin assessing next steps, all of which boil down to Brooks’ single, essential question: What do we want our new normal to look like?

For all the incalculable damage caused by COVID-19, it has given us a rare opportunity to examine the status quo of everything—our personal and professional lives, our politics and institutions, and obligations to neighbors, communities, and ourselves.

We must not let this opportunity pass.

To a certain degree, the challenges faced by the health information community long pre-date the pandemic. Consolidation of resources, advances in automation technology, and a general trend within healthcare to do more with less have many health information professionals concerned about their place in the new normal.

These are very real and pressing concerns. However, each of us has a measure of agency and control over how that future plays out. We need to use it.

Information is the currency of the modern healthcare industry. Those who understand how it flows through a system, how it can be optimized to save money and improve outcomes, and where it is needed to fill critical gaps in underserved populations will ultimately shape the future of the industry.

Health information professionals are ideally suited to thrive in the center of accelerated change, ensuring that information is accessible, actionable, and secure.

AHIMA is working to create an environment of expansion, adaptation, and opportunity to make those choices possible.

The health information profession needs to utilize its arsenal of hard skills, such as advanced analytics, and soft skills, such as leadership. To that end, AHIMA is working to bolster skill sets through a variety of educational events and resources.

For example, our upcoming Assembly on Education Symposium (AOE), July 26-28, will explore innovations in health information education and host hard conversations about where the profession goes from here.

This fall, you will have the opportunity to explore the myriad domains selected for the AHIMA21 conference and enjoy the launch of a new resource dedicated to career development.

We also are seeking to foster a more robust exchange of ideas and community support for our members. If you haven’t already, I would strongly encourage you to join our AHIMA Access social platform and join thousands of other health information professionals in lively discussion on the trends and issues shaping our profession.

Tomorrow’s world will be shaped by choices we make today. We have been gifted with the awesome chance to truly make a fresh start for ourselves and our community. Let’s not let that opportunity pass by unexamined.

Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, is the chief executive officer of AHIMA.

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