Sally Deming, RHIT, Associate Director, HIM Operations, University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), Rochester, NY

Sally Deming, RHIT has been a Health Information Management (HIM) professional for over 30 years. Her education began at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Business Management where she received her degree in 1991. While working for Newark Wayne Community hospital (now part of Rochester Regional Health), she enrolled in the online program for Health Information Technology (HIT) at Alfred State College at the SUNY College of Technology in Alfred, NY. She completed the program in 2005. She chose HIT because it was the only field in healthcare that did not require hands-on patient care. She knew that working in healthcare was where she wanted to work to help patients and health information was the key. She worked in Credentialing, Release of Information (ROI), and Abstracting in the HIM department at Newark Wayne Community Hospital before becoming a coordinator and then the Director of Health Information.

In 1998 she took a position at the School of Medicine at the University of Rochester, which is part of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), where she still works. Her first position at URMC was Supervisor of Record Control of the paper medical records and coordinating evening/night shifts. Paper charts had their challenges from misfiles of the medical record to loose paperwork without identifiable information. She also worked with the Legal and Risk Management departments and helped create policies for ROI and other legal/regulatory areas.

Sally is now the Associate director of HIM Operations and works with Information Systems staff on URMC’s EPIC system for the electronic medical record. She remembers when the team began merging many systems to one system and converting single hospital Master Patient Indexes (MPI) to an Enterprise-wide Master Patient Index. It was a momentous undertaking. Now, data conversions of the various clinical systems to EPIC, is a work in process. Initially, it was one system at a time, but that pace is picking up significantly.

Data Integrity is an active workflow for Sally and the HIM Department. It requires that she work with providers for clinical review, Information Systems for testing of integrated systems, the technical build team, and the Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) to assure accurate electronic transfer of health information across organizations She also oversees the scanning team, which continues to be busy with paper documents, incoming faxed clinical information, and patient portal attachments that must be scanned into EPIC. System updates and upgrades are another ongoing process that Sally is involved with to assure improvements to the system meet end-user needs. Sally also mentioned the importance of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC’s) Cures Act that requires that healthcare entities create and maintain a seamless and secure health information exchange for both patients and their care providers. URMC like all hospitals Is part of a nationwide effort to implement the Cures Act requirements to use of advanced health information technology and promote the exchange of health information.

What inspires Sally to do what she does every day is assuring the integrity of the health information and making sure that the record is as complete as possible. She works hard to support ongoing ROI requests, and makes sure that patients have access their information, and that providers have the documentation they need available to them for the care of their patients. Also important to her is URMC’s requirement to assure security and protection of the medical record information.

When asked to identify a challenge in her job, she said the need for more data standards across the healthcare industry. For example, a unique patient identifier is needed to help assure accuracy and support patient care/safety, in addition to meeting the interoperability needs and requirements.

Most rewarding for Sally in her years of working in HIM, is the diversity of working with complex entities in the healthcare system, such as, research, billing, clinical, technical, security, and other departments that need access to the EHR. She finds it a privilege working alongside clinical teams, Information Technology, Risk Management, and past/present leaders in HIM that helped guide her to learn much about our field.

Her advice to students in the HIM field is to recognize that the opportunities are endless in our field. If a person is looking for a different challenge in HIM, she suggests looking into Compliance or Data Integrity. They are growing fields. Also, administration. It is a broad field with many job opportunities.

In Sally’s free time she enjoys spending time with her family doing outdoor activities. She has recently taken up skiing lessons with her daughter.