AHIMA: Healthcare industry must improve information governance

Most healthcare organizations have not yet established a comprehensive strategy to govern  their data, leaving it and them vulnerable, according to a panel of health information management experts from AHIMA.

The panelists, speaking on data governance at CMS' fourth eHealth Summit in Baltimore this week, warned that information governance programs, which encompass the lifecycle of electronic health records systems and other data--from collection to disposal--were "less prevalent and mature in healthcare" than is warranted, given the importance of the information.

In the first benchmark survey on information governance in healthcare, conducted by the American Health Information Management Association in partnership with Cohasset Associates, which willbe released in a white paper later this month, 35 percent of the 1,000 respondents didn't know if their healthcare organization had any information governance efforts underway or did not recognize a need for it.   

Twenty two percent recognized the need but have not begun any such initiative; most organizations that had information governance weren't undertaking it in a "cross functional capacity." 

The breach leading to the largest HIPAA fine imposed to date, involving patient records mistakenly placed on a server, never would have occurred if the providers had governed their information better, pointed out Deborah Green, chief operating officer and executive vice president of operations for AHIMA.

AHIMA is launching several initiatives to help healthcare organizations better govern their information, such as the creation of information governance principles, the development of a self-assessment tool, and resources to operationalize information governance, such as webinars, case studies, policies and procedures, said Meryl Bloomrosen, AHIMA's vice president of public policy.

"We need information governance in healthcare because of the very nature of the data being collected. We need trust in the data we're collecting and using," added Angela Kennedy, president/chair, board of directors of AHIMA.

AHIMA has been at the forefront of protecting and improving the use of electronic data, such as recommending changes in EHR documentation, publicizing the need for patient matching in EHRs, and better training for HIM personnel handling data.

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