Issue: Names of Information-related Departments

Summary of the Issue

In 1991, the American Medical Record Association changed its name to the American Health Information Management Association. The members, through a representative House of Delegates, voted to make the change to encompass the broader information management responsibilities and knowledge the profession has today. The new name communicates a clearer picture of the profession to employers, potential recruits, colleagues, and physicians.

The national Association's name change has caused members to question the names of individual departments within healthcare facilities and to give members support in making changes.

AHIMA's Position

The American Health Information Management Association encourages members to ensure that information-related departments are aptly named. But rather than recommending one departmental title for all healthcare facilities, AHIMA advises members to base their departments' names on service philosophy, mission, and customers.

For departments where the mission or service philosophy is not clearly defined, AHIMA urges members to make that assessment the first step before considering a new name for the department. Once that assessment is made, the department should choose the name which best reflects its service.

Thus, members may find it appropriate to follow the national Association's lead by changing the department's name to health information management. On the other hand, department names of patient data services, health information systems, patient or client record services, and clinical information services will likely be appropriate to some settings. Continued use of "medical record department" may be chosen in others.

AHIMA's Recommendations

  • The most important step is not a simple name change, but rather, a look at the department's mission, philosophy, and customers.
  • The first step, therefore, is to involve information-related staff, facility colleagues, and physicians in assessing the department's mission.
  • Only after that step is taken is the next step -- assessing the department's current name and potentially renaming it -- appropriate.
  • Members should choose a name which best reflects the department's mission, philosophy, and customers.

Prepared by Jennifer Cofer, RRA, past-president. Approved by the AHIMAA Board of Directors, January 21, 1992.