AHIMA pushes for HIM workforce to be included in jobs bill

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SALT LAKE CITY—The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) announced its “HIM Jobs for America” Initiative at AHIMA’s 83rd annual convention Oct. 3, in what the association said will be a sustained effort to support employment in the U.S., as well as help improve healthcare for underserved Americans.

AHIMA’s workforce initiative was buttressed by news of an existing partnership, announced at the conference between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), AHIMA and North Shore Medical Labs of Williston Park, N.Y. In this program, AHIMA will provide free health IT training to providers and staff in underserved communities, and North Shore will donate EHR software and services through Nortec Software of Milaca, Minn. The demonstration program will assist physicians in practices in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.

During a press conference, AHIMA President Bonnie Cassidy, MPA, RHIA, noted that the association is providing leadership to the initiative that supports the employment and re-employment of thousands of health information management (HIM) professionals, who are, in many cases, already educated and properly credentialed.

These educated and credentialed HIM professionals may need additional training, which would be covered under this initiative, said Craig May, director of public relations at AHIMA. He noted that the initiative was a way to incentivize and “queue-up people” to look at a career as a credentialed HIM professional.”

Cassidy noted, “the entry and return to the workforce by HIM professionals means we’ve created sustainable, full-time, career-track jobs that, once filled, will make a significant contribution to U.S. society, even beyond helping to shrink our unemployment rolls.”

The workforce initiative includes a legislative platform that AHIMA believes forms the cornerstone of an effective job creation in the HIM profession. The initiative includes:

  • A tax credit that incentivizes employers to provide work training which prepares credentialed HIM practitioners with core job skills demanded by an integrated electronic health information system. AHIMA has several workforce development programs that allow employers to implement bridge training upon which the tax credits would be rewarded.
  •  A tax credit that incentivizes employers to provide retraining and/or additional training to current HIM workers, who are either employed or unemployed, that prepares them to contribute to the development and operation of an electronic health information environment.
  • AHIMA’s Health IT Professional (HIT Pro) competency exam for HIM professionals, confirms that workers’ experiences and skills are in demand to meet the needs of health IT.  Employers would receive equal credit for all of its HIM professionals who pass the exam in lieu of formal training.  As the healthcare industry transitions to EHRs, workers taking the exams demonstrated a commitment to the HIM profession and career.
  • Expand and fund baccalaureate and graduate-level curricula for further education of HIM professionals by offering incentives to accredit state and land-grant colleges and universities. Land-grant colleges and universities are higher education institutions designed for each state as a benefit of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The Morrill Acts funded educational institutions that focused on teaching agriculture, science and engineering, as a response to the industrial revolution.

According to Bill Rudman, vice president of educational visioning at AHIMA and executive director of the AHIMA Foundation, “AHIMA wants to build a partnership with business, academia and the federal government to create the estimated 40,000 jobs required to properly build and maintain a national EHR initiative. We’re engaged in several health information workforce development programs that, like the Alliance to Reduce Health IT Disparities with HHS and North Shore, meet the standards set forth in the President’s American Jobs Act.”

These standards include:

  • Providing a public benefit by helping advance an effective and cost-efficient healthcare delivery system; and
  • Creating permanent, sustainable, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer employment security, and that cannot be outsourced.