5 reasons to centralize your HIM department

Consolidation can make or break a health information management department, particularly for enterprise-wide health systems. As the healthcare industry sets its sights on analytics-driven care models, the benefits of a consolidated HIM department may out-weigh the risks of disruptive change.

Robyn Stambaugh, RHIA, director of HIM consulting at CIOX Health, spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about the operational and managerial advantages to bringing diverse HIM departments and functions under one respective, or metaphorical, roof.

1. Clean up your data. "If you don't have quality data, you won't have integrity in your information or validity in your metrics for actionable business insight,” says Ms. Stambaugh. By consolidating HIM departments, management has the ability to address data integrity problems in important areas such as clinical documentation, master patient index and coding that have gone undetected. Before a healthcare organization can apply analytics tools to its data and generate actionable insights, patient information must be accurate and precise. As health systems eye value-based health models, it is mission critical organizations focus on data integrity in all functional areas of health information management.

2. Reestablish coding integrity. "Establishing and maintaining coding integrity is critical to health system operations," says Ms. Stambaugh. Beyond coding for reimbursement purposes, centralization can help to establish best practices for the capture of accurate data from coding departments and point of contact. The data can be used for a variety of information that contributes to the efficient and effective delivery of tasks, from quality reporting to the delivery of care. By centralizing HIM, management implements and supervises uniform best practices for optimal coding and data integrity.

3. Assess and standardize workflows for optimal efficiency. In a centralized model, management also has the opportunity to reexamine department workflows and standardize processes based on best practices across the HIM continuum. By looking at how various HIM departments operate individually, management can design and apply standardized workflows, come upon best practices, and optimize resource-use in their organization.

4. Cultivate and apply management excellence. HIM consolidation of services requires HIM leaders to use their change management skills to navigate successfully through centralization. Success largely depends on how well they navigate their team through the transition. "Centralizing your HIM department is a great time for senior leadership to set the tone for a more cohesive team approach," says Ms. Stambaugh. Reorganization through centralization allows management to establish open and collaborative lines of communication with the HIM workforce to build an effective, visible leadership culture. 

5. Opportunity to cross-train, develop internal staff. “Use centralization as an opportunity to expand professional opportunities, develop career ladders and provide cross training options for HIM employees,” says Ms. Stambaugh. Building a strong HIM career mindset engages and retains the organization’s most valuable asset—people. “It is easier to develop internal talent and prepare HIM employees for emerging roles in data analytics and information governance when functions are centralized,” Stambaugh concludes.

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