AHIMA Advocacy Day Report
By: Crystal Champaigne, RHIA, CCS, CRC
This year AHIMA and AzHIMA supported three bills that have been introduced in either the United States House of Representatives (HR) or the United States Senate (S). The Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2021 (HR 366) would ensure expanded use of telehealth after the coronavirus public health emergency by eliminating restrictions under Medicare and requiring a study on its use during the pandemic. The Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives (PHISLA) Act (S 674) would create a Core Public Health Infrastructure Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to modernize public health at every level. The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act (S 104/HR 379) would authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a program to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities by coordinating CDC social determinants of health (SDOH)-related activities and improving the capacity of public health agencies and community organizations to address social determinants.
The Board of Directors and Members of AzHIMA met, virtually, with representatives from the offices of Senator Kelly and Senator Sinema and representatives from Greg Stanton (AZ 9th congressional district), Debbie Lesko (AZ 8th congressional district), David Schweikert (AZ 6th congressional district) and Andy Biggs (AZ 5th congressional district) office on March 17 & 18, 2021. We discussed with these elected officials the positive impact these bills could have for their constituents and shared stories of how patients have adapted to the current environment. The Navajo Nation is a prime example of how the lack of infrastructure (S 674) is severely lacking. The Navajo Nation is within a remote area of Arizona, and without the vital infrastructure they found it extremely difficult to access providers during the pandemic.
As many Americans discovered during the pandemic, tele-health became a vital part of the medical community and at times proved to be a life saver. HR 366 would protect the ability of patients to continue to access their provider via tele-health. This access saved the life of one patient during the pandemic. The patient was visiting family in Mexico and became infected with COVID-19. Due to the comorbidities, the patient had the infection become a life-threatening situation. By being able to access their providers in Arizona via telehealth the patient was able to communicate with the physicians and they were able to get the patient back safely to Arizona for the surgery needed to save the patient’s life.
S 104/HR 379 affects those who may require assistance during an illness and in situations that are impacted by their illness. It is a way to identify patients who have social determinants of health (SDOH) impacting their health conditions and outside contributing social factors. For example, a patient with cancer is the sole provider for the spouse who has Alzheimer’s/Dementia and is reliant on the patient for all activities of daily living. This bill would provide a way to offer funding to profit and non-profit entities who provide assistance to those who need it during an event such as the one described here.
As Health Information Professionals (HIM), we need to remember we have a powerful voice. We can use that voice to protect patients who trust us everyday with their health information. Dulce Hernandez said it best, “To say it was a powerful experience is an understatement as I learned that we have a voice in expressing what is best for the public health and we have value in our expertise and experience as AHIMA members. The greatest value from this Summit is knowing that we can influence legislation which can result in a positive impact to our public health. That’s beautiful!”
Alma, an AzHIMA member, shared her experience: “Attending the AHIMA Advocacy Summit this year was my first time and it was an extremely enlightening experience in regards to all the work that is being done by individual members as well as AHIMA as an organization taking the lead in the health information management world. What a privilege it has been to be a part of this event that focused on educating the Congressional staffers with public policy issues that affect the healthcare and well-being of the nation.”
I encourage everyone to get involved with AzHIMA. It is a wonderful way to connect with other HIM professionals as well as make a difference for patients. If you are interested in the different advocacy movements, please reach out to Majorie Rosen, AzHIMA’s Advocacy Director, at email@example.com.