Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

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Information Governance Gaining Ground in Healthcare Organizations

Information governance, the cornerstone of big data analytics success, is becoming more prevalent in healthcare organizations angling to become leaders in the industry.

Information governance in healthcare organizations

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Information governance (IG) initiatives are becoming easier to find in the healthcare industry as organizations recognize that the growing volume and value of big data require a coordinated plan of attack.

In a new survey released by AHIMA at the 89th Annual Exhibit & Convention, 53 percent of respondents said they have information governance programs in place or recognize the need for one.

A scant 14 percent have initiated organization-wide IG programs, but 18 percent have some form of governance activity underway.

Knowledge of information governance principles and strategies is widespread, added AHIMA interim CEO Pamela Lane, MS, RHIA.

“We are thrilled that 85 percent of respondents are familiar with IG and 74 percent are familiar with AHIMA’s definition of IG,” she said. “Our analysis shows that we have made progress in this arena and will continue to offer services for even more growth.” 

READ MORE: The Role of Healthcare Data Governance in Big Data Analytics

AHIMA’s IG framework distinguishes between data governance, which focuses on creating, managing, and protecting reliable, accurate, and usable data elements, and information governance. 

The group defines IG as “an organization-wide framework for managing information throughout its lifecycle, and for supporting the organization’s strategy, operations, regulatory, legal, risk, and environmental requirements.” 

This holistic approach to overseeing information is the cornerstone of its mission to transform health information managers from coding experts into hubs of knowledge about big data analytics, privacy and security, informatics, EHR optimization, and interoperability.

“There are enormous opportunities ahead for HIM professionals in emerging areas such as information governance (IG), data analytics, informatics, patient advocacy, entrepreneurship, project management, privacy and security, a range of payment reforms and more,” said former AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA.

“These opportunities will give HIM professionals increased chances, to not just collect and process data, but analyze and apply it.”

READ MORE: AHIMA: Information Governance is Key for Trusted Healthcare Analytics

With an emphasis on specialization and higher education in data sciences and public health, AHIMA is hoping to cultivate a new generation of information governance experts that can lead the healthcare industry through the big data analytics era in a secure, trustworthy, and accurate manner.

“There’s no room anymore for inconsistent quality and inconsistent data,” said Ann Chenoweth, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, President and Chair of the 2017 Board of Directors at the 2016 AHIMA Convention.  “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.” 

HIM professionals who are able to achieve this vision for their organizations are in hot demand.  Healthcare organizations have not been able to shake their inability to cope with the internal burdens of data creation and analytics or with the enormous influx of information coming from outside their walls as the care continuum becomes more connected.

A persistent lack of access to data-savvy employees has further stymied the industry’s progress.

Multiple industry polls have highlighted the dire state of the big data landscape, with a 2017 HIMSS survey stating that just 38 percent of organizations are fully staffed for their data needs and a Teradata assessment noting that only 60 percent of executives are satisfied with their big data management efforts.

READ MORE: Health Information Governance Strategies for Unstructured Data

A 2016 Harvey Nash questionnaire found that 65 percent of CIOs across multiple industries, including healthcare, believe that the pervasive shortage of data analytics talent will prevent their organizations from adapting to ongoing changes.

AHIMA firmly believes that health information management professionals are the perfect candidates to fill in these gaps.

“Health information has always been at the very heart of what we do,” said Chenoweth. “Health information managers are the ones who understand information governance, data integrity, and coding.  We understand analytics.  We understand privacy. We understand how to optimize clinical information in the EHR. 

“It’s only with this information that our system can achieve higher value, lower costs, and make the experience better for the patients we serve.”

A comprehensive information governance program can jumpstart progress for healthcare organizations by creating visibility into existing assets, gaps in quality or reliability, and opportunities to leverage innovative data sources for business intelligence, population health management, and risk-based reimbursements.

“Having that integrity and governance around the data is key, and HIM will do that for you,” said Chenoweth. “HIM has a unique skill around understanding the flow of information, the source of information, and the nuances of data.”

“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.”

AHIMA suggests that HIM professionals work to garner multidisciplinary support for information governance to ensure that positive changes are generated collaboratively and driven across the many moving parts of the healthcare organization.

Executive support is key, Lane added, as are realistic expectations and a clear end-to-end roadmap that includes incremental checkpoints on the way to high-value ROI.

“It is important for organizations to remember information governance is not a project; it is an ongoing program and a continuous, repeated practice,” said Lane. “As a leader in IG, AHIMA stands ready to provide guidance and resources for those seeking to implement an IG program.”


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