House of Delegates 2000: From Bylaws to Byways

Will membership dues increase next year? Will CSAs still be defined along state boundaries? How will the House of Delegates conduct its business in the future? Find out the answers to these questions and more in the following report on the 2000 House of Delegates.

Business is no longer business as usual in a new economy that demands increased speed and a customer-centric approach. The same goes for associations as they adapt to faster and more efficient methods of decision making and delivering service, all within the limits of scarce human resources. AHIMA's 2000 House of Delegates moved in step with these trends as it considered a list of bylaw and organizational changes that center on the Association's responsiveness, flexibility, and representation.

Members are aware that the House didn't get there in a day. Delegates cast their votes in a single afternoon, but a yearlong process built the 2000 meeting agenda. It reflected the contributions of members and volunteers and the dedicated efforts of Association leaders including the Organizational Structure Task Force, the Bylaws Committee, the Board of Directors, and each delegate.

Electronic Balloting Becomes an Option

In the near future, AHIMA members could cast their votes for Association leaders by simply clicking the "send" button on their computers. House members soundly supported amending bylaw articles to remove the restriction that all balloting for the election of Board of Directors officers and directors and council members be by US mail ballot only. The new bylaw language is more general and reads as follows:

Ballots shall be provided to all active members of AHIMA to be
returned in the time set forth by the Board of Directors.

Although the Association will continue to offer paper mail-in ballots to the membership for its national elections, it now has the latitude to offer a choice of methods, including electronic balloting. This means greater convenience for members and the opportunity for broader voter participation and better member representation.

In addition to amending the Association's election procedures, the House also took action on expanding the Nominating Committee, which selects the candidates on each year's ballot. The committee size will increase from seven to nine members through the addition of two members appointed by the Board to serve a one-year term. Terms for members elected by the House will extend to two years. These changes address the challenges of securing strong candidates for national office.

Virtually Year-Round House

Perhaps the most debated amendment on this year's agenda was the proposal to do away with the requirement that the House meet annually in conjunction with the national convention. While House members recognized the advantages of meeting and conducting business outside the confines of the national convention, for the time being it chose to maintain the requirement of an annual, face-to-face business meeting there. Delegates, however, voted strongly in favor of an alternative bylaw amendment (drafted jointly by the Tennessee Health Information Association and the New York Health Information Association) that also gives the Board of Directors and the House the flexibility to call meetings for any other time during the year and in any forum or venue.

What this means for the general membership is that its representatives now have the ability to respond in a more timely manner to pressing issues that arise. Plus, since the meeting method is open, the House can use modern communication methods such as electronic meetings and teleconferencing. This translates into potential time and cost savings and quicker response across the organization.

New Dues Structure Begins in 2001

The individual member was clearly on the delegates' minds as they approached the microphone to express their views on the dues increase proposed by the Board. Most representatives believed that the membership would agree that a dues increase from $100 to $135 was well in order, particularly in light of these facts:

  • Members receive $163 in benefits for $100 in dues; this reflects expanded service offerings including additional practice support, professional advocacy, and online resources.
  • Product revenue and investment earnings have subsidized the shortfall between dues and service, but if these sources continue to make up the difference for basic member services, new investment will be increasingly difficult.
  • Sixteen years have passed since the last dues increase for RHIAs in 1984. Since that time inflation has grown 67 percent.
  • Market factors that influence investment return and prudent long-term planning prevent the Association from relying on investment earnings as a service subsidy.

(For more detail on the dues increase and member services, see the June and August issues of AHIMA Advantage.)

The Board forwarded the dues proposal to the House after careful analysis and benchmarking against current practice in other associations, and after receiving grass-roots feedback at Team Talks. Following discussion and consideration of alternatives, the House voted in favor of the following dues schedule effective in 2001:

New Yearly Dues Schedule Effective with 2001 Membership Cycle

Class Dues
Dues 2000
Dues 2001
Active $100 $135
Associate $100 $135
Student $15 $20
Senior $50 $50

Of note—the new dues structure preserves the senior (65 years and older) rate at its previous level, as suggested by the Nevada delegation. Delegates concurred that this group is more likely to experience income limitations, and the Association values their volunteer contributions in addition to their financial contributions.

The dues increase allows AHIMA to both maintain the same high level of service to members and at the same time maintain the solid financial footing essential to strategic growth.

More Choice for Members

Three main issues came before the House this year regarding component state associations (CSAs): (1) member designation, (2) the definition of a component association, and (3) governance titles of officers and leaders.

A change approved by the House means that members may now designate the CSA they wish to join. Again, this extends greater flexibility to individual members who at the time of annual dues payment may choose the CSA that best meets their needs. Previously, members were able to join only the CSA of the state in which they lived or worked.

With respect to the second issue, a proposed bylaw amendment allowed component associations to define themselves by geography other than state boundaries. The rationale here was to extend economies of scale to less populous states that might choose to group together and offer more populous states the option to partition themselves into smaller management units. The House voted against such a move, with representatives expressing concern over the dissolution of political strength and potential confusion for external alliances. As a result, component associations will remain defined by state boundaries. The House likewise voted to keep existing bylaws that specify a governance structure with officers.

Back to the Future: HIM Education

In 1999, the Board charged the Joint Committee on Education (JCE) with the task of assessing the state of professional education in health information management (HIM). The JCE culminated its work with the white paper "Health and Well-being of Professional Education in Health Information Management."

This paper and its findings became a featured topic of discussion at a House Issue Forum. It also became the basis for a resolution proposed by the Washington Health Information Management Association and adopted at the 2000 House. The resolution recognizes the important role CSAs must play in marketing and recruiting qualified applicants to HIM programs. It further establishes as a priority the need to market the HIM profession to employers, students, and the public.

Progress Report to the HOD

Linda Kloss, AHIMA's executive vice president/CEO, delivered her annual report to the House. Her report highlighted the Association's work through mid-year in three major areas: strategic initiatives, organizational performance, and finances. Across the board, AHIMA achieved success in diverse areas that share the core goal of serving members better.

Communities of practice, the image marketing campaign, and strategic expeditions mark the Association's current initiatives to advance the profession into the future. The first community will be tested late this year and the project is expected to Ògo liveÓ by spring 2001. The image marketing campaign is well on course, with a number of member and employer-directed tools available on the Web. AHIMA will continue its progress on four strategic expeditions designed to lead both the Association and the HIM profession to the industry's next era: e-health, specialty advancement, nosology, and body of knowledge. For more information on any of these strategic initiatives, refer to past issues of AHIMA Advantage, which provided in-depth coverage in 2000.

Kloss reported that AHIMA's staff year 2000 goals coalesce around knowing and serving members better. To that end, the organization will continue to work toward success in these key areas:

  • Well-executed image marketing campaign
  • Expanded Web-based offerings
  • Sound internal operations
  • Enhanced professional development opportunities

Of note in the finance sector, AHIMA's overhead expenses have increased just over 2 percent annually from 1995 through budget 2000. The Association's finances remain sound and, with the support of a dues increase, are positively positioned to take advantage of new service investments opportunities. See the June 2000 issue of AHIMA Advantage for audited combined financial statements for AHIMA and FORE.

Source: AHIMA Advantage 4:5 (October 2000)