Better info governance is ‘imperative’

June 4, 2014 in Medical Technology

Does your organization have a comprehensive data governance program? If not, you’re not alone. But you’re also not close to where you should be if you want to provide better care at lower cost, according to a new report.  

[See also: Mobile tech popular, but governance gaps remain, says HIMSS]

More than two-thirds of healthcare organizations still lack a comprehensive information governance strategy, a new analysis from AHIMA finds, despite the obvious importance of having one in place to improve care delivery and population health – to say nothing of an organization’s bottom line.

In the benchmarking survey of comprehensive IG practices in healthcare – billed as the first of its kind – a whopping 95 percent of more than 1,000 respondents said improving the quality and safety of patient care was the chief rationale for implementing IG strategies.

[See also: AHIMA calls for improved health IT governance]

But there are plenty of other benefits to be had from smarter governance of clinical and financial data.

“Information governance is a strategic imperative for all organizations within the healthcare ecosystem,” said AHIMA Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Deborah Green, in a press statement. “Improved quality and patient safety, cost control, care delivery redesign and responding to regulatory changes are top goals for healthcare organizations, and all are dependent on trustworthy information.”

The new report from AHIMA and Cohasset Associates, “A Call to Adopt Information Governance Practices,” takes stock of IG in healthcare and offers tips organizations should follow to better handle their data.

There are certain areas where governance is strong, AHIMA points out – most notably with regard to privacy and security. But organization-wide deployment is still a relative rarity. Among the survey’s key takeaways:

  • IG programs are less prevalent and less mature in healthcare organizations than is warranted, given the importance of health information.
  • The IG framework and its foundational components call for strengthening and expansion within organizations.
  • Information lifecycle management practices related to core functions require improvement to ensure the trustworthiness of the information.
  • Privacy policy and practices are the most developed in healthcare followed closely by information security policy and practices.

Indeed, when it comes to patient privacy the news was very good: fully 97 percent of respondents said essential policies for maintaining secure protected personal health information are in place in their organizations. However, only 81 percent report that business associate agreements are in force and routinely audited.

To lay the groundwork for better and more widely-deployed data governance programs, AHIMA recommends approaches that are cross-functional, with senior level support. Moreover, providers’ focus shouldn’t just be on clinical information alone, but business and operations information as well.

“I encourage my colleagues in the C-suite to make a comprehensive information governance strategy an organizational priority,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon in a press statement.

“It’s easy to think it can be put on hold or maintained in one department while executives deal with other challenges, but this is a mistake,” she added. “Developing a strategy should be a collaborative effort and is essential to realizing the benefits of governance.”

Toward that end, AHIMA recommends an accountability framework and decision rights to ensure the effective use of information, enterprise-wide; defined processes, skills and tools to manage information throughout its entire lifecycle; and standards, rules and guidelines for functioning in an increasingly electronic environment.

Access the full report here.

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