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AHIMA Advocacy Summit Recap

Submitted by Alexandra Richards, MJ, RHIA-PHIMA Advocacy/Legislative Chair
PHIMA representatives took Capitol Hill by storm once again, advocating for the health information management profession and participating in the Advocacy Summit. In attendance were Chris Parfitt- PHIMA President, Margie Stackhouse- PHIMA President-Elect, Linda McLinden- PHIMA Executive Director, Alexandra Richards- PHIMA Advocacy/Legislative Chair, Jill Clark- 2nd Year Director- AHIMA, and Valerie Watzlaf- AHIMA President Elect. During the Advocacy Summit, members heard from AHIMA’s new CEO, Dr. Wylecia Wiggs Harris on leadership. Members also heard from Iliana Peters, formerly OCR’s acting deputy director and ONC’s acting deputy director for health information privacy (HIP) where she gave an insider’s perspective on what is important to the OCR with regards to HIPAA Audits and breach notification processes. Genevieve Morris- ONC’s Principal Deputy National Coordinator spoke to members on improving interoperability, and Maria Durham - Director for the Division of Program and Measurement Support in CMS had an interactive session with members on the work CMS is doing to reduce the documentation burden and empower patients.

The second day of the Advocacy Summit was kicked off by hearing from Megan O’Boyle, a patient advocate and mother to a 17-year-old daughter with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. Megan spoke to the challenges she faced while managing all of the documentation that goes into taking care of her child’s health condition, including being known as the “Binder Lady” for toting around a large binder with all of her daughter’s medical records. PHIMA representatives then traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with staff from the offices of House Representatives Charlie Dent (PA-15), Scott Perry (PA-4), Lloyd Smucker (PA-16), and Keith Rothfus (PA-12) and Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.
The congressional asks from AHIMA for 2018 were around patient matching and the opioid crisis. For the second year, AHIMA is asking for language to be removed from the appropriations legislation that prevents HHS from working with the private sector on a patient matching strategy. The 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the use of appropriated funds by HHS to promulgate or adopt any standard for a unique health identifier until legislation is enacted specifically approving the standard due to concerns from privacy rights groups. As the HIM professional typically manages their organization’s patient matching strategy, and with the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act promoting interoperability of EHRs, ensuring medical records without error due to a patient mismatch could become quite the burden.
The second “ask” of our elected officials was to support or co-sponsor two bills to modernize privacy laws to combat the opioid crisis. The two bills we reviewed with the staff, HR3545 and S1850, both have language to remove the 42 CFR Part 2 regulation that governs confidentiality in sharing substance abuse treatment records. Currently, unless a patient gives direct consent, treatment from a designated Part 2 program, disclosure is prohibited. An example is the story of Jessica Grubb, who was prescribed opioids after going in for routine surgery and later overdosed and died as a result. Her patients warned her providers that she was in substance abuse recovery and needs to be strictly monitored, but the hospital pharmacy dispensed the prescription for 50 oxycodone pills as a direct result of not having her substance abuse treatment history in her medical record.

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