Delegates change membership rules, focus on defining the legal record

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At the annual meeting of the House of Delegates of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) last week in Denver, the group voted to approve that AHIMA active membership can include individuals “interested in the AHIMA purpose and willing to abide by the Code of Ethics.”

The change removes the requirement that active members hold an AHIMA certification [RHIA (registered health information administrator) and RHIT (registered health information technician)] in good standing. The association’s president, president-elect, and past president, however, must be AHIMA-approved credential holders.

Since the change was proposed last year and quickly gained momentum, it has generated a lot of controversy. Backers said there aren’t enough credentialed HIM professionals to fill all the roles in the growing HIM field. They argued that others entering the industry should have the opportunity to weigh in on the application of HIM practice standards. This is a concern, as the AHIMA Board of Directors sees the definition of HIM continuing to expand as a result of changes such as advances in electronic systems and privacy and security regulations. Opponents said opening up AHIMA membership would devalue the association and its credentials.

The House of Delegates also designated 2007 the Year of the Legal Health Record. The group approved a resolution on the legal health record proposed by the EHR Practice Council that includes the following:

Regardless of the media used to create and store health records, AHIMA advocates that organizations define one set of health information that meets the legal and business needs of the organization and complies with state and federal laws and regulations.

AHIMA advocates that, of the information that comprises the legal health record, organizations should document which exists in electronic media and which exists on paper and continuously update this documentation during the transition to EHRs.

AHIMA advocates that organizations implementing EHRs take steps to ensure that the functionality of the EHR system supports the legal heath record and develop a long-term strategy for moving the legal health record to digital media and minimizing the risks associated with records in a hybrid state.