7 Habits of Highly Effective HIM Leaders


The department of health information management has grown a lot from the days when it was just a little filing room in the hospital basement. Today, HIM leaders manage and secure powerful clinical data, lead integral hospital staff, and impact the revenue of their organizations.

As the HIM department has grown, so has the role of HIM leaders. We sat down and talked with successful HIM directors, consultants, and educators to understand the secrets of their success. Here are 7 habits of highly effective HIM leaders.

1. They understand that HIM is about more than just numbers.

Health information management is more than just coding clinical procedures. Effective HIM leaders understand that the role of their department is changing because healthcare is becoming more and more data-driven.  

Cindy Zak, Executive Director of Health Information Management (HIM) at Yale New Haven Health System, captures this when she says, “All this data — from big data to mobile tech — transforms to information and helps drive innovation. In healthcare, innovation means creating new ideas and solutions that help patients, but it’s also about becoming more efficient and effective.

This data — and how to be more creative and efficient with it — informs decisions hospitals make about everything from revenue to patient care. LouAnn Schraffenberger, Manager of Clinical Information at the Advocate Health Care, reflects the connection between HIM data and her hospital’s larger strategic initiative to maintain patient safety. “In the HIM department, if any information is inaccurate, it can be unsafe for the patient. This also requires us to collaborate with other departments. So, we put a lot of effort into centralizing the process and into making sure our coding is stellar.

Advocate Health Care uses the following strategies to achieve that goal of excellence:

  • Safeguards to prevent record mix-ups
  • Accuracy standards to ensure correct information
  • Strict coding deadlines to make sure our billing cycle flows smoothly

Chris Simons, HIM Director and Privacy Officer, Maine General Medical Center, also links impeccable data with helping medical staff take care of patients.

If the work we do and the data we produce isn’t supporting our medical staff, we’re not doing our job.” — Chris Simons, HIM Director and Privacy Officer, Maine General Medical Center

2. They encourage teamwork to promote productivity.

No HIM director is an island. The strongest leaders know that the strength of their department rests on the strength of their relationships.

For Schraffenberger, building strong connections with colleagues is synonymous with success.

When I think of a successful HIM Director, I think of someone who knows how to work with other people.” — LouAnn Schraffenberger, Manager of Clinical Information at the Advocate Health Care

“It really depends on having a partnership with the good people you work with, recognizing and drawing on other associates’ strengths, and sharing your expertise. This makes the strongest team possible.” She encourages strong teamwork in her coders, noting that a foundation of trust helps everyone work better. “We make sure our experienced employees offer a helping hand to new folks so that no one is out there doing something they don’t know how to do. We work to encourage trust between coworkers so they can always reach out to ask for help.”

Zak encourages trust in her staff by making herself available. “I make rounds and visit with staff throughout the campus just to chit-chat with employees in HIM. I need to be seen so that my employees know that I’m always there to answer questions. My door is always open.”

Want more? Download the eBook: 7 Habits of Highly Effective HIM Leaders.

Download our free 7 Habits of Highly Effective HIM Leaders eBook


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