Updated on: April 22, 2021

Building and Maintaining Professional Associations

Original story posted on: April 20, 2021

Gloryanne Bryant savors her journey in healthcare and her relationship with AHIMA, explaining that what she enjoys most is growing, expanding, learning, leading, advocating, sharing, and ever importantly, volunteering, which is available to all.

This is Health Information Professionals (HIP) Week, and I was asked to take some time to reflect on the profession, and on being a longtime member of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The following article is my attempt to share some AHIMA experiences I’ve had, so that the reader might gain some new momentum, perspectives, and even some health information management (HIM) drive.

When looking at the history of AHIMA, we find a starting point back in 1928, when the American College of Surgeons established the Association of Record Librarians of North America (ARLNA) to "elevate the standards of clinical records in hospitals and other medical institutions." The current AHIMA mission today is “empowering people to impact health.” Visit www.ahima.org for more information on the history of the organization and many available benefits, education, and other offerings.

Like many in HIM, I always thought I’d like to work in healthcare, but I wasn’t sure about the role or job I would have. After working as a file clerk in a medical clinic while going to college, I discovered there was an actual profession based upon the medical record structure, maintenance, and information (and even a “coding system”). With great interest, I took courses, and when I passed the national AHIMA exam for a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) more than 40 years ago (called an Accredited Record Technician, or ART, back then), I felt deeply committed to a career in healthcare, and to the HIM profession as a whole; thus, I became a member of AHIMA. I’ve continued to have a strong connection with my professional association through obtaining additional credentials (CCS, CDIP), public speaking, volunteering, and serving on a variety of committees and task forces, some of which helped to develop the well-known Practice Brief for Complaint Physician Querying and the Standards of Ethical Coding – and of course, I also benefitted by attending the annual AHIMA Conference and Exhibits.

As many of us in healthcare know, there are many various aspects to and areas of the HIM field. For me, growing as a professional meant the specific area of “clinical coding” or medical coding; that’s where my passion was and is, beginning with ICD-8-CM, then moving to ICD-9-CM, and then the big transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS. The transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS was a major initiative for AHIMA, and I had the good fortune to give supporting testimony at the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee in 2006 on behalf of our profession. It was AHIMA that asked me to give that testimony, and they mentored me prior to and during this important event. Now, in healthcare, we are looking at the adoption of ICD-11 to come bring added value to the classification system.

The compliance sector of healthcare was under scrutiny in relation to “upcoding” issues back in the 1990s, and in 1998, I was serving on an AHIMA committee regarding HIM compliance, and was asked to present the HIM Coding Compliance model at their national convention. During the annual gathering, my particular educational session was packed to capacity and AHIMA responded quickly to the needs of its members and attendees by asking me to speak a rare second time (the next day) on this important coding compliance subject. Since then, I have tried my hardest to always bring up compliance as well as ethics when writing or speaking about clinical documentation and/or coding, and have been able to connect integrity with the AHIMA name. 

Clinical documentation improvement, now “integrity,” or CDI, is also a part of being a health information professional, and I began performing the concurrent querying function back in 1995 – which progressed over the years into working on the AHIMA Clinical Documentation Improvement Practitioner credential exam and several important practice briefs. In addition, my CDI experience at AHIMA has allowed for greater personal career exposure, and an evolution into new aspects of clinical documentation and coding.

Now I am in my retirement years, but I am maintaining my HIM coding professional credentials and membership as I perform independent consulting on a limited basis. What a wonderful journey my relationship with AHIMA has been, growing, expanding, learning, leading, advocating, sharing, and ever importantly, volunteering, which is available to all. This has also given me several career opportunities through the many professional connections and friendships that have been fostered along the way. In addition, having the inner feeling that you are making a positive difference is very rewarding and fulfilling.

For those new to the HIM profession or those currently holding a membership, take a moment to reflect on how you might connect with AHIMA or enhance your current role, as I have – whether that role is in privacy and security, data analytics, technology and systems, CDI, management, academics, or clinical coding. Through an association, these roles and others are empowered to be a catalyst that connects healthcare across many continuums, and builds and maintains trusted health information.

References: www.ahima.org; Our History | AHIMA

Gloryanne Bryant, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, CCDS, AHIMA-Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer

Gloryanne Bryant is an independent health information management (HIM) coding compliance consultant with more than 40 years of experience in the field. She appears on Talk Ten Tuesdays on a regular basis and is a member of the ICD10monitor editorial board.

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