Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Quality & Governance News

AHIMA: Information Governance is Key for Trusted Healthcare Analytics

Information governance is at the core of creating trustworthy data for analytics, value-based care, and other business intelligence decisions, AHIMA executives said.

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Implementing a robust and comprehensive information governance framework across the healthcare organization is the first step to success in a value-based word that demands trusted, accurate, and timely analytics, AHIMA’s executive leaders said at the 2016 Convention and Exhibit in Baltimore.

Information governance and big data analytics

Without a clear idea of how to manage health information – and without the skilled HIM professionals to put those ideas into action – providers will struggle to meet the growing challenges of extracting, analyzing, and reporting on the critical data that should inform all organizational decision-making.

“Health information managers are great at telling the patient story,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, in a roundtable interview with

“Our future is not only to help interpret that clinical story, but to move the industry forward as we change how we get paid and how we treat patients.  The HIM role is expanding into informatics, data analytics, and information governance to make sure all this information can be trusted.”

“Trust” is the operative word when it comes to big data.  By its very nature, big data originates in many different places and must be reconciled before it can be analyzed.  In the healthcare environment, where data siloes may force providers to replicate the same efforts in disparate systems, it can be difficult to tell which report should serve as the source of truth.

This is an especially challenging circumstance when providers are trying to generate quality reports from data that may be split across clinical and financial systems, added Melissa M. Martin, RHIA, CCS, CHTS-IM, President and Chair of the 2016 Board of Directors.

“You could get data out of one system that tells you one story, and then take what you think is the exact same data out of another system, but the stories look very different,” she said. 

“When we’re talking about information, we’re not just talking about what’s in the EHR.  We’re also talking about your business data.  Both types of data have to be included in the overarching framework of information governance, so you can trust that they were created the same way and tell you similar things.”

The Role of Healthcare Data Governance in Big Data Analytics

While health information managers have always believed in the importance of data integrity and information governance, the financial pressures of value-based care are bringing even more attention to the role of good data in the daily workings of any efficient healthcare organization.

“There’s no room anymore for inconsistent quality and inconsistent data,” said Ann Chenoweth, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, President and Chair Elect of the 2017 Board of Directors.  “Trusted data must be reliable, accurate, accessible, where and when it’s needed.  It’s not the data that comes out of here verses the other system.  It has to be an enterprise-wide framework that you can rely on.” 

“Having that integrity and governance around the data is key, and HIM will do that for you. HIM has a unique skill around understanding the flow of information, the source of information, and the nuances of data,” she continued.  “They’re a critical part of a team of data scientists, IT experts, clinical leaders, to really put meaning to the bits and bytes in this huge big data pool we’re creating.”

HIM experts are eager to become the bridge between raw data and actionable insights, Martin agreed.  

“It’s obviously incredibly important for the clinical staff to have the data they need to make decisions. The physicians are asking for the data and the information.  When you bring it to them, they want you to explain it to them, because data on its own doesn’t mean very much.”

“The people who are most prepared to do that are in the HIM department,” she said.  “Because frankly, the IT folks don’t really have the time for that.  They’re great at getting the information out of where it’s living, but they don’t really have the time to explain it, and they may not have the background experience in healthcare.  So when the physicians go to IT for insights, everyone gets a little frustrated, because they just get the report without interpretation.  HIM professionals are those interpreters.”

For the past several years, AHIMA has been focusing on preparing HIM professionals to bring that increased value to their organizations.  Coding and billing still form an essential part of the HIM skillset, but AHIMA is encouraging its membership to move into new areas of data management, and the campaign appears to be working quickly.

“We’re seeing more departments out there, like enterprise analytics, that are bringing together a combination of roles – truly HIM without walls.  So we do have some HIM folks that are migrating into the analytics area,” Martin said.

For HIM experts who wish to develop their big data analytics and information governance skills further, Chenoweth suggests collaborating with IT and other departments to learn more about how to synthesize data in a meaningful, harmonious way.

“Dig into technology and understand how to leverage it,” she urged.  “Understand what’s happening when it comes to the quality reporting and the trends impacting the profession.  Be part of the team.  Ensure that you have the information governance in place so that you can count on this data, especially because we’re entering a whole new world with MACRA in a little while.”

The Difference Between Big Data and Smart Data in Healthcare

The landmark legislation will bring a number of challenges to healthcare organizations, Martin agreed, and overcoming those issues starts with developing trusted and accurate information.

“You should do your best to understand the regulations,” she said.  “Our advocacy office is trying to help our members do that, and I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of activity as we talk about the challenges we’re going to have.”

“Step two is making sure that the clinical staff in your organization understand the ramifications as well, because they’re going to be a major part of this.  The documentation coming from the clinicians is where we get so much of our data, so it’s important that they’re aware – and I think they are.  A lot of physicians are much more involved in regulatory issues than they used to be.  They’re getting much more fiscally responsible, and they’re all in at this point.”

It may take some time for most stakeholders to comb through the lengthy MACRA final rule and create a battle plan for attestation, but Thomas Gordon hopes that the HIM department will be included in every strategy session to ensure that information governance remains central to the discussion.

“Our vision is to improve health through trusted information,” she said.  “So whatever that rule says in all those hundreds of pages, our role is to make sure that all the decision-makers have trusted information so they can make the choices they need to make.  Because if we can help physicians become more successful and maybe remove some stress, then we will be their partners in doing all of what we need to do.”

“As health information managers, we’re asking organizations to please develop this framework from the top down so that we can make sure our information can be trusted.  Because bad data doesn’t just result in bad decisions.  It can hurt your patients.  It’s so important that everyone realizes how fundamental information governance is to every part of patient care.”


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