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ICD-10 conquers AHIMA

Don’t take this the wrong way.

The 2015 AHIMA Convention & Exhibition, held earlier this week in sultry New Orleans, was a productive conference. 

A few thousand health information management (HIM) and health IT professionals and dozens of vendors had a great time, educated themselves, did business and celebrated the coming of ICD-10 a day after the American Health Information Management Association conference ended.

But attendance was down from last year, with fewer attendees and fewer vendors on the floor (though nobody seems to have a precise count, which in itself kind of shows how slow things were).

Ironically, it’s pretty apparent that the ICD-10 conversion on Oct. 1, the very milestone that the great majority of those present were celebrating, was the culprit.

While the official line from countless pro-ICD-10 AHIMA members in NOLA was “if you’re not ready for ICD-10 by now you’re not going to be ready by staying home,” it became increasingly clear over the three days I was there that many did, indeed, stay behind at their jobs at healthcare organizations, payers and health IT and HIM companies.

They were undoubtedly hustling to do last-minute preparations for ICD-10.

On the brighter side, the show also saw a lot of warped humor about ICD-10. I glimpsed one T-shirt with a bunch of jagged lines saying: “This is your brain on ICD-10.” An AHIMA official joked from the stage that she hoped everyone would enjoy New Orleans “both pre- and post-apocalyptic.”

And most people, while slightly amused by the Twitter accounts, Web sites  and jokes making fun of some of ICD-10’s nuttier codes — such as being injured by an Orca whale, to cite just one well-known example — actually tended to poke fun at the naysayers and critics in the anti-ICD-10 camp. Certainly they had little patience for them.

In any event, one sure sign that this AHIMA confab, the venerable organization’s 87th, wasn’t quite as hoppin’ as usual was the absence of high-octane luminaries from the health IT and entertainment worlds.

Last year, movie star heartthrob Rob Lowe drew throngs of AHIMA-ites to San Diego’s PETCO Park stadium and ONC chief Karen DeSalvo, M.D., roamed the halls and attracted rapt audiences.

This time around, no ONC people were on hand in any official capacity. And among the invited guest speakers were a deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing from the U.S. Department of Commerce, futurist Joe Flowers, and Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America.  

Next year, the first post-ICD-10 AHIMA conference will be in Baltimore.