Five Organizations Advancing Healthcare Leadership

It is a real privilege to be a member of AHIMA—with their very human focus on empowering people and building trust—and by connecting people, systems and ideas, taking an active industry leadership role to transform health and healthcare.

John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, Speaker & AHIMA Advocate

With growth comes change, and few fields have undergone more change than healthcare. To lead in this industry requires a broad set of skills, and the agility to refine those skills to match innovations in technologies, policies, and processes. But even leaders don’t work alone.

Professional organizations serve as a nexus for industry leadership. By rallying around a specific mission, an organization is able to connect its members, advocate for policy changes, and advance the standards of excellence in their profession. This is particularly important in the field of healthcare leadership, where changes to data standards, patient identification processes, and financial practices can have enormous impact on patient health, security, and stability.

These organizations also serve as career accelerators, providing networking opportunities, job listings, continuing education, and professional certification. In a way, they’re the final step of a healthcare manager’s education: a step that never truly ends, just matures. Success in a professional organization is often synonymous with industry success, and that’s mirrored by the higher salaries that professionally-certified healthcare leaders often earn.

But it’s not just about a higher paycheck or advancing in one’s career. These organizations advance healthcare leadership as a whole by redefining best practices, disseminating research, and advocating for changes in the industry at large. Together, healthcare leaders can accomplish so much more than they can on their own.

To get a look at five organizations that are advancing healthcare leadership, read on.

American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

John Richey

For many people, the importance of issues related to health data has only recently entered the mainstream. But it’s been top of mind for AHIMA for almost a century. Since 1928, AHIMA has served as an industry thought leader, improving data quality by taking a leadership role in the effective management of health data and information.

“Perhaps AHIMA’s historical accomplishments are best-captured by its current mission and vision statements,” says John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA. “AHIMA’s mission is ‘Empowering people to impact health.’ AHIMA’s Vision is ‘A world where trusted information transforms health and healthcare by connecting people, systems, and ideas.’”

Richey has served in a number of volunteer roles at AHIMA, most recently as the 2015 chair of the VLab Strategic Advisory Committee, member of the Council for Excellence in Education’s Faculty Development Workgroup, and member of the Global Health Workforce Council’s AHIMA Workgroup. He is also the past president and distinguished member of the Ohio Health Information Management Association (OHIMA).

“Healthcare is based on trust, starting with the trust between patients and their healthcare providers,” Richey says. “That trust also extends to anyone with a job-related need to access a patient’s data in support of their care and service. It is a real privilege to be a member of AHIMA—with their very human focus on empowering people and building trust—and by connecting people, systems and ideas, taking an active industry leadership role to transform health and healthcare.”

Richey was drawn to join AHIMA as a senior in college at The Ohio State University, when his professors strongly encouraged him and other students to do so. Since then, he’s taken advantage of the impressive range of products and services the organization offers, including online learning content; in-person meetings for networking and collaboration; textbooks and publications; academic journals; and industry-recognized credentials and certifications.

Professional credentials and certifications are particularly important when working with health information, as they indicate a person actually possesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to carry out the duties of their discipline.

“Holding an AHIMA credential helps to demonstrate and reflect trust, which is central and critical in any healthcare encounter,” Richey says. “Regardless of the format (paper or electronic), high quality data provides the trusted foundation upon which to transform health and healthcare to benefit one and all. I will be an AHIMA member for all my days.”

AHIMA is playing a big role in advancing healthcare leadership and advocating for changes to the health data landscape. They have two primary focus areas: patient identification and matching (PIM) and social determinants of health (SDOH). The ability to properly identify individuals is imperative to patient safety and advancing interoperability across healthcare systems, and AHIMA’s advocacy team has been at the forefront of legislative efforts toward a national patient identification standard. Their goal is to maximize the safety, security, availability, and integrity of patient health records.

AHIMA also supports the creation and expansion of standardized social risk codes, derived from SDOH data, which are managed through classification and terminology systems which will strengthen clinical documentation, improve outcomes, and create more meaningful health information.

American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)

The ACHE has spent the last 85 years advancing healthcare leadership and promoting excellence in the field of healthcare management. With more than 48,000 members and 77 chapters, it’s the preeminent professional society for leaders in healthcare to focus on improving the health of their patients and communities.

Their goals are threefold: to achieve best in class levels of performance; to identify and recognize role model organizations; and to identify and share best management practices, principles, and strategies. Each year, over 4,000 participants meet at the ACHE’s Congress on Healthcare Leadership to discuss groundbreaking research, policy updates, and best practices. It’s the premiere conference for healthcare executives.

The ACHE spearheads numerous advocacy efforts, with a major push towards diversity and inclusion. They believe that diverse participation improves decision-making, productivity, and competitive advantage. To advance this initiative, they host an LGBTQ Forum, an Asian Healthcare Leaders Forum, and the Thomas C. Dolan Executive Diversity Program. The ACHE also prides itself on leading for safety, and provides healthcare leaders with the tools and resources they need to instill cultures of safety and raise the standards for excellence.

Members of the ACHE have access to a learning center, a career resource center, academic journals, continuing education programs, and a leader-to-leader rewards program. They can also apply for the Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) credential, the industry’s gold standard for board-certification in healthcare management.

Health Care Administration Association (HCAA)

The HCAA’s core purpose is to support healthcare benefit administration through its values of leadership, development, integrity, inclusiveness, and quality. Following the passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Independent Administrators Association was formed in 1980 to provide a legislative and regulatory advisory group for third-party administrators. In 1998, it rebranded itself as the HCAA, with the goal of supporting third-party administrators and the self-funded industry.

Taking a leadership role in transforming that self-funded industry, the HCAA hosts two major conferences each year to convene on strategic issues and share ideas. The Executive Forum, held every February, focuses on member companies’ executive leadership, providing critical points of view that aspire to challenge and disrupt. The TPA summit, held each summer, focuses on the information and process needs of self-funded benefit administrators. It offers several branches to choose from: leadership; sales and marketing; operations; and emerging leaders.

The HCAA website includes basic educational offerings that explore the reasons to self-fund and the details of stop-loss insurance. HCAA members get added access to job postings, an executive leadership program, and H360 (an online hub that includes a compliance and HR library, a form repository, a monthly newsletter, and other tools and training resources).

Those who complete the requisite continuing education and pass a comprehensive exam can earn the Certified Self-Funding Specialist (CSFS) designation—the only credential of its kind in the self-funded industry.

Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA)

For three-quarters of a century, the HFMA has dedicated itself to advancing healthcare leadership by providing its members with relevant education, professional development, coalition building, and advocacy in healthcare financial management. A community committed to diversity, the HFMA boasts over 50,000 healthcare finance leaders who work in hospitals, health systems, provider organizations, physician practices, and payer markets.

The HFMA hosts a series of detailed, analytical overviews of the most pressing topics in healthcare. Their Healthcare 2020 initiative, for example, offers a series of reports on the major healthcare trends on the horizon: the transition to value-based care; the increasing influence of consumerism; the consolidation of the healthcare industry; and innovations in clinical care delivery and health business processes. In addition to reports, podcasts, news, continuing education, and self-assessments, they also offer eight professional certifications which are targeted at specific areas of healthcare financial management.

HFMA members can join in on the conversation, too, with numerous virtual and in-person events taking place practically every other weekend. Topics range from artificial intelligence, to revenue cycle, to financial sustainability. The annual conference serves as an intensive omnibus, where more than 2,500 healthcare leaders gather for a three-day event that includes 50 breakout sessions.

Women in Health Care Management (WHCM)

WHCM is an all-volunteer professional organization for healthcare managers and leaders seeking to further their careers and contribute to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable executive workforce. Founded in 1977 by a small group of women, it remains a tight-knit group of 240 active members, and it’s still a major networking organization for professional women with careers in the healthcare industry.

Even though it’s centered in Boston, WHCM’s membership benefits extend across the nation. Members gain access to network opportunities, job listings, skills development, leadership opportunities, and inclusion in the members directory. Its members work across a wide range of settings: insurance companies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and marketing and consulting firms.

WHCM holds seasonal events that focus on networking and industry issues. The 2019 Spring Forum was centered around the topic of consumer empowerment, and a panel discussed what was changing in healthcare as more became expected of consumers. The 2020 Spring Forum will focus on leaders taking risks to advance their careers. In between events, WHCM maintains both an industry-themed blog and a page of success stories, where members share their experience finding mentorships, jobs, and further guidance.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about emerging issues in healthcare administration and public health, with a particular focus on progressive policies that empower communities and reduce health disparities. His work centers around detailed interviews with researchers, professors, and practitioners, as well as with subject matter experts from professional associations such as the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) and the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHCA).

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