Some recent conversations with MTs and coders have me questioning whether we are often their worst enemy. Right now I know that there are some sharpening their claws for the strike, but hear me out. Traditionally our profession is more reactive than proactive. I think that is an undeniable fact. Although we loudly voice what we do not like about the current state of the profession or where it is trending, we seem to shy away from the more successful proactive approach…or we begin to get involved, hit a speed bump, run back to safety and say “I tried and nothing changed.”
MTs are used to being the behind-the-scenes person who “types what we hear” (we hate the term but I think our actions, or inaction, speak louder that words) and dare not question the physician or offer ideas on improving dictation practices even though it could lead to reduced errors and increase patient safety. Coders are seeing changes pushed onto them as well even though physicians are ill-prepared to provide them the information they need to implement new changes.
We let vendors develop systems that we use on a daily basis without insisting on being part of the development and complain heavily after the fact about how it could be better. I recall a few years ago during a meeting where a vendor showed his nifty EHR that was in development. It was nice. It had a place for all medications, allergies, past medical history, etc. When asked if there was a shortcut key that would import that information into the record as the MT was typing, there was a look on his face where he realized that he should have thought about that. He mentioned that maybe he should have MTs give him ideas…wonder if any volunteered after the meeting. Obviously the EHR field has evolved immensely since then, but the main point is still relevant.
Over time I think we have allowed ourselves to be marginalized to a point where we have no voice. Even worse than not having a voice is that many have no idea what they should be voicing their opinions about. The age-old ostrich head in the sand. A discussion with some “seasoned” professionals recently led me to realize that even those in a position to know what is important to them, often simply do not read much, or any, of the information being sent to them.
Healthcare and healthcare documentation is changing at an exponential rate. We are seeing a push to the EHR with promises of cost savings and increased patient contact time despite after-the-fact corrections, the healthcare law that congress recently put into action changes the face of medicine to a degree that is unknown at this point, privacy concerns over the inability of many countries to ensure privacy is pushing work back onshore, MTs are being asked to know more for a lower rate of pay, we know we will need close to double the coders to handle ICD-10 even though there is currently a shortage….the list could go on and on.
I have heard professionals state that AHDI, CDIA (MTIA) - now gone, AHIMA, etc, are not saying or doing the right things; however, what are the complaining individuals doing to shape the future of this profession other than complain on a blog or forum? Interestingly each of these groups are run by people just like you and me who decided to be a part of shaping their association based on what they feel is best for the future. Being a part of the change is much harder than the Monday night quarterback approach that we see so often.
I do think each professional owes it to themselves to, at the very least, know the issues. That is what a professional does. We would not see a doctor, lawyer, banker, etc as a professional if they did not keep up with trends in their profession yet that is standard practice for many in this one. Although membership in a professional association is a great way to gain access to the information, there are endless other opportunities to find the information.
So here is the basic test on whether you are informed or not. Can you answer these three basic questions with confidence?
1) What is “meaningful use” and why is this term currently very important?
2) Why is the topic of the “narrative report” such a hot topic in healthcare documentation?
3) How does the recent HITECH Act affect you as an MT?
4) What is ICD-10 and why do some see it as critical while others see it as being a bad idea?
5) How is the Affordable Care Act affecting healthcare?
These topics have been mentioned frequently and loudly in professional emails, webinars, and meetings as well as discussed in various healthcare documentation publications. AHDI, AHIMA, MGMA, AMA, and other professional associations have shared the information as well. We should all be an informed professonal and in turn be the ones educating others. Every non-student should know these topics by heart now. If not, there is a problem.
So where do you stand? Are you going to react to what someone else decides is right for your future and hope for the best or be proactive and shape that future the best way you can?