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History of CAHIIM

The professional management of medical records began a  century ago with Grace Whiting Myers’ work organizing the  medical records stored at Treadwell Library at Massachusetts  General Hospital in Boston. Known for her character, vision and  drive—unusual at the time—Myers’ work was instrumental in  forming what later became AHIMA almost a century ago.

On the  final day 1928 meeting of the American College of Surgeons, its president, impressed by Myers’ dedication to the centrality and integrity of the patient record, ACS’s president proposed forming the Association of Records Librarians of North America (ARLNA).

Myers (1) 

Not long afterward, ARNLA established a model curriculum and an inspection procedure similar to accreditation (1935). Its close association with the medical profession was formalized when accreditation moved to the American Medical Association’s Council on Medical Education and Hospitals, where it continued for more than 50 years, before becoming the Council for Allied Health Education Accreditation (CAHEA) and separating from the AMA.  (CAHEA later became the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) an umbrella organization that accredits programs in 30 health science occupations.)   In 1991, ARNLA adopted its present name Association for Health Information Management (AHIMA).  In 2003, AHIMA’s leadership recognized the need to create an independent accrediting organization, creating CAHIIM in 2006.

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, Archives and Special Collections

Transformation - The Digital Revolution

Meanwhile, in both the clinical medicine and basic science, the transformation of healthcare resulting from the digital revolution was well underway.  In 1988, three organizations, notable because of their use the “informatics” and “computer” in their names, merged to create AMIA (the American Medical Informatics Association): the American Association for Medical Systems and Informatics (AAMSI); the American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI); and the Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care (SCAMC). A decade later, the impact of computers on healthcare was further amplified by several legislative directives, culminating in the HITECH Act in 2009, incentivizing adoption of the electronic health record.

The need for a well-trained workforce capable of leading the transition to digital healthcare was recognized by  both AHIMA and AMIA. The first move came when two medical specialty boards approved a clicial sub-speciality in clinical informatics from the American Board of Preventive Medicine which created in 2013 a set of competencies reflecting the core knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to prepare for practice in both fields. While AHIMA had been engaged in accreditation of HIM education previously, accreditation in informatics was new territory CAHIIM sought and received recognition of its expanded scope from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in 2012. At the same time, AMIA and CAHIIM created a task force to analyze the widening the scope of health informatics, to set of core professional competencies spanning clinical informatics, population informatics, consumer health informatics, translational bioinformatics and clinical research informatics. 

Beginning in 2015, the CAHIIM Health Informatics Accreditation Council (HIAC) set a goal to move toward an educational model based on outcome competencies to provide the core foundation of knowledge and skills needed by the health informatics graduates. HIAC developed a framework built on the AMIA Board White Paper: Definition of Biomedical Informatics and Specification of Core Competencies for Graduate Education in the discipline, Kulikowski, C.A., et al.;J AM Med Inform Assoc. 2012 Nov-Dec; 19(6); 931-8. Considerable work evolved as AMIA and CAHIIM and AMIA. See AMIA 2017 Core Competencies for Health Informatics Education at the Master’s Degree Level. In addition the 2017 Health Informatics Accreditation Standards - Masters Degree were revised by the HIAC and approved by the CAHIIM Board of Directors to meet current accreditation good practices and changes in higher education.