What is Information Governance?

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nurse at station answering the phoneInformation governance (IG) in health care is defined as the structures, policies, and relevant procedures initiated and adhered to by hospitals, health care providers and medical insurance companies to collect, organize, utilize and secure data. The arena of information governance is concerned not just with extracting value from patient and hospital data but also with reducing potential risks to it, ensuring that information generated or managed by a health organization is secured by various degrees of protection as mandated by institutional compliance, state and federal laws, regulations and/or organizational policies. The U.S. National Library of Medicine broadens the definition of information governance within the specific realm of healthcare to include the use and dissemination of medical data and information through the application of computers.

While information governance is an emerging field as it pertains to health care, other industries such finance, military and drug manufacturing have all embraced information governance strategies to manage the copious amounts of data relevant to their work. So new, in fact, are approaches to information governance strategies in the healthcare realm that in 2014, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) published a series of principles setting guidelines based on the integrity, protection and retention of health-related information for institutions to adopt within their own organizational framework.

The Data Lifecycle of IG

Health information management professionals are expected to play an important role in all facets of information governance as electronic medical records become more commonplace and the digitization of past medical records continues.

There are two major emerging facets of information governance in the healthcare sector, namely, analysis and application of archival data and the protection of that data throughout its lifecycle from both organizational misuse and cyber criminals.

The data lifecycle as it pertains to information governance in health care includes the collection of patient information at nearly every phase of medical care: treatment, research, outcomes improvement and government reporting. It can also include several administrative elements including billing, payment and insurance claims data.

Role of Health Informatics Professionals in Information Governance

Information governance is one of the fastest growing in the healthcare industry. Even in its infancy, actionable data derived from efficient information governance strategies has already shown benefits in improving patient outcomes, preventing spikes in acute illnesses within communities and in determining the best options for treatment plans for a variety of ailments. These systems of data governance half also made strides in improving billing processes and reducing insurance claim and patient statement errors that would otherwise burden other resources to remedy.

As students in the University of Illinois at Chicago online Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics or Post-Bacc Certificate in Health Information Management programs can attest, there are myriad roles across the healthcare sector that are emerging as information governance systems continue to grow in influence and scope. As Valerie Prater, Clinical Assistant Professor at UIC Health Information Management states:

“HIM professionals have always managed regulatory issues and the efficient use of health record system technology; we’ve been involved in risk management. The opportunity with information governance is to take this a step further to a more holistic approach, working with all information assets critical to business continuity across an organization. Effective information governance involves leadership of an interdisciplinary team and development of an enterprise-wide structure and strategy.”

As Prater explicates, the need for executive and management-level professionals in information governance is only expected to grow as the healthcare industry continues to adopt strategies and procedures dedicated to it. From data mapping to establishing policies and procedures for data functionality, there are a several main focuses where health informatics professionals will play a role.

Upper management and leadership positions need to assess existing policies, procedures and related to information governance and to engage relevant stakeholders in the capture, storage and use of health-care-related information. Senior sponsorship is deemed to be invaluable in organizational efforts to build ethical information governance strategies.

The proliferation of information governance will also require new leadership positions to foster cooperation between multidisciplinary teams and IG stakeholders across both hospitals and health care organizations, ranging from lower-level HIM professionals to constituents in IT, compliance, software development, finance, and legal and risk management, all in an effort to promote partnership, share insight and adherence to data integrity.

HIM professionals will also be called upon to design, build and implement systems charged with utilizing relevant data in line with the strategic goals of both hospitals and healthcare organizations. How can health-related information be utilized to create improvements to quality of care, reduce costs, mitigate risk and improve patient outcomes?

Similar to all data-related fields, concerns about the security of personal patient information is also a primary focus of emerging professionals under the scope of information governance. Privacy and security officers with a background in health information management will be tasked with safeguarding against data breaches and designing digital infrastructure geared not only toward protecting personal health records and patient data, but also subsequent findings related to investigations of it.

As the amount of information and access to confidential/proprietary data grows, the role of privacy and security officers must also evolve. Already, positions such as Chief Information Governance Officer (GIFO) are responsible for driving organizational-wide management of privacy and security of information governance infrastructure.

Outlining the future of information governance within the arena of health care may be one of numerous obligations graduates of UIC’s online Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics or Post-Bacc Certificate in Health Information Management could be tasked with they help to define future policies and practices for governing use of the information.

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