AHIMA calls for better EHR data governance

Since so many of the data initiatives that are part of health reform will be only as good as the data gleaned from electronic health records, the American Health Information Management Association is calling for better standards for EHR data governance.

As part of its annual convention this week in Chicago, AHIMA announced it is ready to work with providers, health plans, quality organizations and vendors as well as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to provide clear guidance on effective documentation to improve patient care. It also will focus on data quality at a summit in Chicago in November.

"Unified data governance principles will help promote accuracy and consistency and reduce ambiguity," said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon. "Data governance and data integrity have been and will be a critical part of AHIMA's strategic plan, and we will continue to lead the discussions and the solutions developed in this field."  

Recent reports that EHR systems could be used for fraud adds weight to the organization's call for a national set of coding guidelines for hospital reporting of emergency department and clinic visits, rather than each hospital developing its own, according to the announcement.

"It is important to remember that use of coded data has moved well beyond actual payment of the bill, which increases the need for coding accuracy. CMS, other payers, states and accrediting agencies all use claims data either directly or indirectly to support quality measurement and public reporting. Health information management professionals play a critical role in not only coding, but the entire healthcare system. The information collected must accurately and fairly represent hospital performance and outcomes of care," Gordon told FierceHealthIT in an interview.

Electronic health records systems have been criticized on myriad fronts for their lack of interoperability and for the often unreliable data they contain. Columbia University researchers urged a "radical shift" in approach--studying the EHRs themselves to identify problems.

"We must mine the EHR data to learn the idiosyncrasies of the healthcare process and their effects on the recording process," they said.

In response to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's request for information, the American Hospital Association recently urged adding the provider's "voice" in the design and testing of electronic health records for quality measures.

"[W]e encourage AHRQ to work with all stakeholders to ensure that automated measures are valid, reliable and feasible to collect," said Linda Fishman, senior vice president of public policy analysis and development with the AHA.

To learn more:
- read the announcement