1st IFHRO SEAR conference: consolidation and strengthening in health information management for the benefit of health safety environment to support the millenium development goals among IFHRO SEAR Countries in the 21st Century.
Article Type: Conference notes
Subject: Knowledge management (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
International agencies (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Medical informatics (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Author: Price, Emily
Pub Date: 02/01/2009
Publication: Name: Health Information Management Journal Publisher: Health Information Management Association of Australia Ltd. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Health Information Management Association of Australia Ltd. ISSN: 1833-3583
Issue: Date: Feb, 2009 Source Volume: 38 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Computer Subject: Knowledge management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia
Accession Number: 216488655
Full Text: Bali, Indonesia 21-24 October 2008

My attendance at the International Federation of Health Records Organisations (IFHRO) South East Asia Region (SEAR) Conference from the 21st-24th October 2008 in Bali, Indonesia was made possible through the new HIMAA Professional Development Program and by assistance provided by my employer (The Women's Hospital, Melbourne). It was wonderful to see so many countries represented at this conference; representatives from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, Philippines, Cambodia, China, America and Australia were present. The theme of the conference, which featured presentations that were both inspirational and thought provoking, was the development of health information management in the South East Asia region into the 21st Century. Some of the challenges identified throughout the conference were unique to the Asia region but many were all too similiar to those faced by Health Information Managers (HIMs) in Australia on a daily basis.

Many SEAR countries consist of small island provinces with large populations, where the delivery of healthcare and health information services can be problematic. Health information management positions are very new in many SEAR countries and although there is a need to develop this area throughout the region, shortages in financial and human resources create significant barriers to the achievement of this goal.

Training of the current health information management workforce and the provision of supportive IT infrastructures and skills in the region are challenging. Many countries in the SEAR region have highly complicated governmental structures. These structures create confusion about what information is required and to whom it should be reported, and also about the ability to effectively use the IT, health information and limited coding resources that are available. While a common theme of the conference was the desirability for the SEAR region to join other countries in the development and implementation of the electronic health record, to achieve successful development HIMs must first garner support from their hospitals and staff to implement the fundamental principles of basic medical record management.

Another common theme of the conference was the need to work in partnerships; that is, the need to create partnerships within health services, hospitals, divisions of government, teaching facilities, and between states and other countries. Many HIMs in Australia understand the importance of such partnerships and of collaboration with our peers in other hospitals and states. We are fortunate to have good access to the internet and email to facilitate such links, but for many of our SEAR colleagues this is not always the case. These partnerships are necessary to ensure the provision of high quality data that are of mutual benefit to all countries. Interestingly, it was reported at the conference that analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) into the accuracy of mortality data showed that a country's wealth and access to complex IT systems do not necessarily have a positive correlation with data accuracy. Some of the poorest nations in the world report the 'cleanest' mortality data.


The clinical coding workforce and coder training were other areas of particular interest to the SEAR delegates at the conference. U.S.H. Gamage, a member of the National Institute of Health Sciences, Kalutara, Sri Lanka, provided an inspirational presentation on the development of clinical coding and data management within his country. Sri Lanka has, for many years, worked in collaboration with the Australia's National Centre for Classification in Health (specifically NCCH, Brisbane) to plan and implement suitable training programs for the clinical coders of the entire region. The training courses were attended by potential trainers who were then entrusted with the duty of transferring their knowledge to their colleagues. Sri Lanka undertook the first training course in 1999, receiving a positive evaluation from both WHO and NCCH Brisbane. The curriculum delivered by the Sri Lankan Health Service has met required international standards, broadening the employment opportunities for the participants and ensuring sustainability within their workforce.

It is exciting to note also that a project is being developed and piloted to accredit morbidity and mortality coders with an internationally approved and accessible course. Margaret Skurka, the current president-elect of IFHRO, presented a paper on this pilot study, which was has been operating under the leadership of the WHO-FIC-IFHRO (1) Joint Collaboration work group since 2004. Such a program, if it were to eventuate, would have tremendous benefits in the Asia region, where many countries have no formal coder training program. With the objectives of the project being to improve the quality of coded health data and to support the coder workforce, this program would also supply countries with a coding curriculum, processes to review and certify training materials, mechanisms for the assessment and approval of qualified trainers and the means to assess the competency of the coding workforce who use the International Classification of Diseases. It would also have a positive benefit to the standardisation of data within countries and internationally.

The aspirations of SEAR for health information management are not unique to this region. The dreams for better medical record documentation, more training for HIMs, better remuneration and improved staff retention, together with more career and learning opportunities, improved clinical coder education, electronic health record systems and improved IT infrastructure seem very familiar to the needs of the Australian health information management community. What differs between the SEAR countries and Australia are the current financial resources available to the former to achieve even a small portion of these needs. Progress is being achieved, albeit in small steps, but the development of health information management in Australia also started in small steps. The message I took with me from this conference was that these small steps are essential to ensure that SEAR countries form a foundation for excellent and sustainable health record management. Once the basics are in place the future will be very exciting.

I would like to thank the organising committee of the first IFHRO SEAR conference. Not only was the conference set in the stunning location of the Patra Resort Bali, but the food, cultural activities, conference presentations and hospital tours were excellent. Attendance at this conference not only gave me an insight into the development of health information management in the Asia region but also exposed me to a cultural experience that I will remember for many years to come. I have every ambition to be a part of the next IFHRO Congress and hope to see many of my new friends in Milan in 2010.

Emily Price BHlthInfoManagement

Coding Manager

Health Records and Information

The Women's Hospital, Melbourne

Parkville VIC 3052


Tel: 03 8345 2628

Fax: 03 8345 2623

email: emily.price@thewomens.org.au

(1) World Health Organization-Family of International Classifications-IFHRO
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