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Workforce Challenges & Technology Adoption for Health Information Professionals

Smiling mid adult businesswoman using computer at office desk
Examining the current state of the health information workforce and the use of artificial intelligence
  • Client
    American Health Information Management Association
  • Dates
    June 2023 – October 2023

Problem

The health information profession needs a better understanding of understaffing, burnout, and the optimal use of emerging technologies.

Health Information (HI) professionals span many roles that are crucial to health system operations and sustainability, including data quality and revenue cycle management. Similar to the general healthcare workforce, the HI sector faces major workforce issues that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as burnout and understaffing, with widespread impacts on health systems and patient care. The HI profession also faces unique challenges, including skills misalignment and uncertainty regarding the role of AI. In its response to a March 2023 US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) committee Request for Information (RFI) regarding healthcare workforce shortages, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) cited potential drivers of workforce shortages and detailed potential solutions, including emerging technologies. 

Solution

NORC surveyed AHIMA members on workforce challenges and the use of emerging technologies.

Recognizing the need to solidify its perspectives on these problems and evolve its policies to best support the HI workforce, AHIMA partnered with NORC for objective analysis and effective policy recommendations based on findings.

Through this partnership, NORC designed, delivered, and analyzed a survey of AHIMA’s membership and crafted actionable recommendations that advance AHIMA’s goals of empowering HI professionals to meet current and future health care needs.

NORC surveyed 2,526 health information professionals on workforce challenges and the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in helping to mitigate these issues. The survey and subsequent white paper sought to:

  • Understand the specific workforce challenges that impact HI professionals
  • Assess the role that emerging and evolving technologies will have on the HI workforce
  • Leverage survey insights to develop policy recommendations around workforce development

In responding to AHIMA’s unique needs, NORC demonstrated its research and health policy expertise by designing, administering, and analyzing a workforce survey and translating key findings into objective and actionable recommendations.

Result

Our survey found widespread concerns, the potential for AI to mitigate those concerns, and a need for support.

The HI workforce struggles with the effects of understaffing and employee burnout, and action is required to successfully integrate AI and ML tools into existing workflows.

Key findings include:

  • 66% of respondents reported understaffing of HI professionals at their organization within the last two years.
  • Respondents experiencing understaffing also reported:
    • Increased burnout (76%)
    • Higher staff turnover (48%)
    • Reimbursement issues (48%)
    • Lowered data quality (37%)
    • Slower release of information (36%)
    • Slower implementation of regulatory requirements (19%)
  • While AI shows promise to alleviate administrative burden and increase productivity, respondents reported use challenges, including increased technical burden and the need for increased oversight and governance over these new tools.
  • 75% of respondents reported the need for upskilling amidst the adoption and implementation of AI, and 72% suggested the need for new training areas.

AHIMA plans to use key findings and recommendations to support the critical HI workforce, prepare the HI workforce to integrate AI tools, improve data quality, increase productivity, and reduce administrative burden. Insights presented in the report will play a pivotal role in shaping the future management of patient health data and determining the required workforce needs to navigate emerging technologies and innovations.

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