Information governance—the process of monitoring healthcare information throughout its lifecycle—has emerged as a business imperative for the healthcare industry. Data integrity is the most important tenet of IG—building trust in information to support effective decision making, reduced costs, patient safety and quality of care.

At the 2015 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit, Deborah Green, AHIMA’s executive vice president and chief innovation and global services officer had this to say: “The volume and rate of growth of data do not bring the greatest challenges to information integrity across healthcare. The tougher challenges to information integrity, availability and security require information governance.” Further discussions emphasized the various aspects and value of trusted information, including safe use of IT and interoperability.

While many organizations are still in the beginning phase of implementing an IG program, a recent survey by Cohasset Associates revealed that 44 percent of respondents have established IG oversight bodies, 44 percent have seen modest to significant progress, 38 percent have included IG in their organization’s strategic goals, and 36 percent have designated senior executive sponsors. Pilot tests of IG across various healthcare settings to validate IG adoption, identify success factors, and develop case studies based on lessoned learned are also underway by AHIMA and others.

Progress along the IG journey

Organizations that have successfully initiated IG programs have done so with strong support from senior leadership and collaboration among stakeholders. According to Linda Kloss, author of Implementing Health Information Governance: Lessons from the Field, these progressive organizations have five qualities in common:

* Recognition of information and data as assets to be managed—Senior leadership understands IG is essential to organizational performance and realizing value from technology.

* Culture of strong interdisciplinary work—Effective IG requires collaboration across disciplines including clinical, business, HIM, IT, informatics.

* Engagement of executive sponsors—Senior executives understand the connection between strategic priorities and access to trusted information.

* Aptitude for optimizing policy and process—Organizations know how to ensure adherence to information policies based on laws and regulations.

* Commitment to learning and building on success—Results of IG are measured and used to support continuous improvement.

Technology is essential for the collection of healthcare data. However, data alone does not constitute adequate IG. The big specific challenges of healthcare also require the application of principles, guidelines and standards unique to the healthcare environment. IG in healthcare is essential to ensuring data integrity while minimizing risk and costs for patients and providers. This principle becomes even more critical as healthcare data quickly evolves into “big data”.

IG supports big data

The healthcare industry is looking to the value of big data to help organizations achieve the triple aim of quality care, population health and reduced per capita costs. Big data accomplishes these goals when IG becomes an integral part of the overall IT and big data vision. With proper governance, big data solutions can advance patient engagement, improve quality, apply analytics and contain costs.

Based on insights shared by organizations that are seeing the benefits of IG, here are five strategies to begin or enhance an enterprise-wide program:

* Create a multidisciplinary team with support from senior leadership. The best way to achieve effective integration and use of big data is through collaborative efforts including all stakeholders—HIM, IT, C-suite, compliance, legal, financial, clinical, quality, security. Identify a senior champion to help develop a charter aligned with organizational goals.

* Assess policies, procedures and systems for managing data. How are you capturing, processing, delivering and storing data across various departments? What are the gaps, points of entry and access? How are you integrating patient generated health information and other external data?

* Provide training and education. Promote enterprise-wide understanding of the importance of IG. Apply guiding principles for implementing IG along with real-world case studies of organizations that have successfully initiated programs. Consider your key performance indicators and strategic priorities as part of IG education.

* Ensure data integrity through data mapping. HIM and IT should work with other departments to determine what data elements are being mapped. Look at how and where various data elements flow across systems. Establish consistent data definitions. What measures are in place to make sure data is accurate, complete and accessible?

* Invest in technology to turn big data into actionable data. Acquire tools to help ensure information is accessible and useful for strategic planning, achieving triple aim goals. Investing in data analytics can leverage data to reduce costs and improve care. And, IG is the foundation for realizing the full benefits of technology—through governance policies and practices.

IG framework for the future

The future of healthcare depends on the ability to capture, process and deliver accurate, complete and timely information. CIOs and HIM professionals can lead efforts to achieve accountability, transparency and interoperability through advanced technology and IG initiatives. IG is an ethical responsibility and a good business practice—data integrity demands it.

Rita K. Bowen is a distinguished professional with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry. Before joining HealthPort, Ms. Bowen served as the Enterprise Director of HIM Services for Erlanger Health System for 13 years. Ms. Bowen served as the AHIMA President and Board Chair in 2010 along with numerous other national leadership roles including AHIMA’s liaison for HIMSS for the CHS exam construction in 2002.

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